First came multi-channel, the concept to sell online as well as on the high-street. This was replaced with omni-channel when bloggers and social media personalities grew their influence over customers. Connecting the multi-channel with all the various online touch points became a hot topic.
How do retailers bridge the channels?
Putting it simply, there is no real connection between physical stores and online apart from a number of stores offering 'click & collect' and return options through high-street outlets. While a few retailers have implemented order management systems to manage and/or measure inventory levels in the various channels there are still companies operating separate inventory systems for high-street and online channels.
Some of the retailers trying to reach customers in the omni-channel?
River Island is making a concerted effort to engage with their customers online as well as in-store. Customers are invited to win £1k of shopping by interacting with the company on Snapchat. The retailer is also inviting customers to their personal style advisors (only two locations in the UK so far).
Click & Collect is also on offer in River Island. The company is making an effort to reach and interact with consumers.
The former Apax and Permira owned retailer now majority owned by Brait is focusing on planting their app on consumer's smartphones. Neon window displays informing passersby about the app. Perhaps all the budget went into this signage as the in-store notices that customers can also buy online could have been produced by a primary school student on work experience.
New Look in-store signage, Oxford Street.
The N Brown group is arguably one of the top performers in the online and multi-channel genre. However, offering customers to shop online in-store may not be the killer app to reach out to its male demographic.
From left: Jacamo Oxford Street, JD Sports Oxford Street.
There is certainly some way to go before the omni-channel is moved out of online only. A lot of R&D work is happening in this field but the easy options VR & AR have not produced any compelling results. We are excited about some recent developments in Size & Fit technology and other Fashion Technology niche sectors but think there bridging of the channels will take a bit longer.