The retail industry is at an inflection point. The consumer’s path to purchase has dramatically changed over the past decade. Once linear, shopping has transitioned to a more convoluted process that looks more like a kindergartner playing connect the dots. In response, retailers are vigorously pursuing the development of a seamless and successful omni-channel retail strategy.

At the Future Stores Conference, the Director of Store Experience at a prominent retailer discussed how the company was trying to reposition the brand with millennials because the company’s 100-year-old message of quality and success no longer resonated with the youngest members of its target market. During his presentation, I could not help but think about my first interaction with that particular retailer as a young 20-something just a few years prior. I walked into one of this retailer’s brick and mortar stores ready to upgrade my wardrobe, selecting this retailer based on the brand messaging I had seen online. The store atmosphere was welcoming and embodied the time honored tradition of quality and success I saw online; however, when the 65 year old sales associate began to pick out and suggest styling options, the ambiance of quality and success faded into a feeling that this store wasn’t a good fit for me. It was out of touch with my age group. To be fair, this may have been because of that particular sales associate, but the feeling I had from that interaction led me to equate that experience with the overall brand message and strategy of the retailer. I left the store empty handed, and I immediately looked for a retailer that seemed to be a better fit for what I was looking for.

Through a recent State of Retail Report, Engageware found that my reaction was not unique. 85% of consumers reported that, if they were to visit a store looking to buy a particular item and they did not get the right sales person with the right knowledge and expertise, they would go elsewhere.

The lack of conversion in this anecdote and the stat reported by Engageware should haunt retailers. It also highlights a few lessons I learned at the conference. First, the winner in the conversion game will be the player(s) who can connect the entire customer experience and employee engagement. The key lies in the retailer’s or sales associate’s ability to transition from a task worker to a knowledge worker. Second, regardless of channel, every interaction with a customer matters. On the positive side, Foresee by Answers published a report that shows that customers who interact with multiple channels before making a purchase in store are more satisfied and more likely to make a repeat purchase. On the negative side, due to the breadth of options and access to those options, one less than desirable interaction with a channel can push a customer to look elsewhere. Finally, in the near future, contribution will be as important as conversion. As retailers begin to utilize different channels to attract customers, retailers will want to understand how each channel contributes to the success of the company. Case and point, it is unlikely that the retailer knew the brand message it portrayed online attracted me, but the experience in-store repelled me.

There is no magic “one size fits all solution” that will help retailers develop their omni-channel strategy. However, retailers should find consolation in the fact that consumers are not calling for retailers to fit a set mold. Instead, consumers are simply asking that each retailer provide a consistent brand message across all platforms that the consumer interacts with.

Without a doubt, omni-channel retailing is changing the retail business model. Merchants now need to adapt new strategies to adhere to consumer demands, and scheduling technology may be one approach worth considering. Enhance your overall retail customer experience with a multi-channel retail solution.

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