Online and brick-and-mortar shopping are no longer two separate worlds. Omnichannel is the motto: Customers expect a seamless shopping experience.
It's almost 7 p.m. – the guests will be here in an hour. Just then, a light bulb goes out in the chandelier above the dinner table. It's too late to order a replacement online – despite the same-day delivery
service some Internet retailers now offer. The host pulls out his smartphone, uses a shopping app to find the nearest store with the right light bulb in stock, reserves one and takes off to collect it from the store.
Modern customer journey – online and offline
Order online, collect from the store around the corner: no longer the exception. The online and offline worlds are converging in the retail sector. According to the researchers at the EHI Retail Institute in Cologne, "omnichannel" in other words, the convergence of all channels, is the future. Online retailers like Zalando are opening brick-and-mortar stores, while traditional retailers are also making their goods available online while working to improve the in-store experience. Always in focus: the customer as king and the individual customer journey. The basis for all these omnichannel activities is consistent digitalization. "Retailers who don't digitize will soon face major challenges," says Patrick Molck-Ude, Managing Director of the TC Division at T-Systems.
Special offerings based on data analyses
Digitization helps retailers develop the right customer journey, thinks Molck-Ude. IT systems analyze a wide variety of data and suggest campaigns to the retailer – for example, for when good weather for a barbecue is expected in a region, or a major soccer game is about to be aired on TV. Brick-and-mortar stores certainly won't lose their importance in the digitized world. Thanks to omnichannel, a customer can reserve a special cut of meat on the Internet, "but he still wants to see it in person before he actually buys it," says Molck-Ude.
The smartphone – the central tool for the customer journey
The customer's smartphone is assuming the key role when it comes to the omnichannel trend. For example, when the host who has ordered the light bulb enters the store, a sensor will recognize the person and he or she will be welcomed individually: Via the customer's smartphone, the retailer offers him a personalized phone cover, produced on a 3D printer in the store while the customer is shopping in the store. Meanwhile, the smartphone-based indoor navigation system has already guided the customer to the shelf with the light bulbs.
Structured advice via tablet PC
While in the store, the customer remembers that he had long been interested to buy a new printer. He pulls out his smartphone again and tips a button to summon a salesperson. The salesperson is also connected and an app on his tablet guides him through the sales talk: How many pages does the customer print per month? Does he print mostly photos or text documents? The structured interaction leads straight to the model that best meets the customer's needs.
Satisfaction during the customer journey from start to finish
The customer uses his smartphone for contactless payment for both the light bulb and the printer. He automatically collects loyalty points, which he can redeem for a wireless movie download while still in the store. The entire shopping process is convenient and paperless for the customer – no credit or debit card required and certainly no cash. What makes all this possible is reliable omnichannel connectivity and a neat retail solution that integrates all the customer journey data while providing a maximum of protection. The system must also be as failsafe as possible, because every minute of downtime would cost the retailer a lot of money.