An Open Letter From A Millennial
Fix Your Omni-Channel!
Estimated Read Time: 4 - 5 Minutes
Just last week I woke up after a great night’s sleep. Feeling ambitious, I grabbed my phone from my nightstand and checked my phone for the latest updates on Instagram. Scrolling through, I saw that one of my favorite retailers announced a limited-time sale on a jacket I’d been eyeing. I checked my e-mail on my iPhone and sure enough, in big bold print, “30% Off!” Finally! That jacket had the price tag that I had been waiting for. I checked the website, and it showed that the nearest store had my size in stock. I headed out of my downtown house, grabbed an Americano at the local coffee shop, and walked into the store.
As I walked in, I encountered a disorganized mess of merchandise thrown throughout, making it challenging to even navigate to the outerwear section. After some effort, I miraculously found an associate and inquired about the jacket.. The frazzled associate said, “Hold on.” She then fast-walked to the back and to my dismay, came out of the swinging doors empty-handed. “We ran out of that jacket yesterday. It’s really popular. You can go online and they’ll send it to your house, though. You’ll just have to pay for shipping.”
Are you kidding me?!
I know. This may seem petty in the grand scheme of things, but I know it’s not an isolated incident. Many consumers encounter such issues with omni-channel retailing, and it’s time for a change. Being in the industry, I may be hyper-sensitive to how this experience should work. I know that this epidemic started a few years back (sometime between 2007 and 2010 according to multiple sources) when brands were told that they needed to be available to customers wherever, whenever, and however they needed them.
I’m aware that every CEO, CMO, COO, CIO, CFO, and all the other C_Os around the retail world got the message loud and clear, and that they got to work. Websites were revamped, mobile apps were developed, social media accounts were created, and pop-up shops appeared at every community event and festival. New merchandise continually rolled out to keep up with ever-changing trends, stores underwent renovations to incorporate digital touchpoints like tablets hung on walls and endcaps that gave consumers access to the website and marketing materials. These and countless other initiatives have been introduced with the biggest brands in the world working with their heads down since omni-chanel’s conception.
Omni-channel was created and all of us shoppers are happy, right?
Sure, I have access to your brand in all of the channels I could ever think of. Thank you.
So, how could I not be happy?! What is going wrong?!
While these efforts have expanded brand presence across various channels, it hasn’t necessarily translated into a seamless, enjoyable shopping experience for consumers. Part of the problem is that all of these executives and leadership teams are going about these initiatives separately, working in silos instead of working together towards a common goal–a happy customer.
A recent JDA/PwC survey of over 350 global retailers showed that only 12 percent of those brands offered a seamless shopping experience across channels.
Okay, I get it. In the grand scheme of things, these are first-world problems. But I know that good, consistent omni-channel strategy and execution are possible. I know that I can actually get my jacket where, when, and how I want it without disruption.
How do I know this? I’ve seen it done by multiple brands in a variety of different ways.
The evolution of omni-channel is happening, with brands like Nike, Adidas, Starbucks, and REI leading the charge. They’ve recognized that it’s not just about being-omni-channel; it’s about acting as one consistent channel to provide consumers with a seamless experience across all touchpoints. When consumers walk into XYZ store, they want to have the same experience and feel as when they go to XYZ website, when they check out the XYZ Instagram account, and back around. If there are any inconsistencies, consumers notice. I get that feeling of consistency when I interact with the brands I mentioned above.
These brands have also realized that it’s not about being everywhere for everyone but rather delivering what their specific consumers are looking for consistently throughout their shopping journey. To achieve this, they’ve prioritized understanding their target audience and have focused their efforts accordingly, rather than attempting to excel in every area.
So, wow are these realizations and revelations happening? It starts with executives, leaders, and department heads collaborating beyond their typical board meetings. These teams have started working together to achieve common goals centered around customer experience and consumer insights, resulting in more positive feedback for their efforts. eCommerce, operations, design, web, social, and marketing teams are getting together regularly to discuss goals and initiatives that they can combine efforts on. Finance teams are allocating funds to initiatives that span multiple departments, moving away from budgeting individual efforts in isolation.
Oh, retail heavens rejoice!
So why am I writing this open letter to the retail industry? Out of excitement and optimism! I know that the industry is making great strides. As more and more brands adapt and departments continue to evolve outside of their own silos, I know that someday soon I will not have that empty feeling that I had when I left that unnamed retailer empty-handed. I know that someday soon you will all bring me the great, consistent experience my fellow millennials and I are begging for. Why? Because I know you can.
Your friendly millennial customer,