By Peter Goulbourne – Allure, A Christie Company

Channel blurring is the catalyst for what we now call “the Omni Channel,” or simply a one stop shop whenever and however you want to shop.  As retailers adjust course to account for alternative shopping experiences, technology continues to extend the shopping experience, all for the sake of consumer convenience and efficiency.

To help us all understand more clearly, Dictionary.com defines an Omni-Channel as:

“om·ni·chan·nel”. (ˈämnəˌCHanl/) – (Adjective)  – denoting or relating to a type of retail that integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers (e.g., online, in a physical store, or by phone)“

According to AC Nielsen, the portion of dollars we spend in brick and mortar stores is trending downward.  In fact, during 2014, it dropped by 48%. Conversely, the total spend on food is growing over the same timeframe. And while the reasons for increased food spending can be debated, there’s no arguing that the opportunity for those of you in the restaurant business lies in winning a greater share of the total spend … share of wallet.

Retailers will always invest to grow brand equity, upgrade the shopping experience, and drive messaging that in turn drives consumers to purchase.

Let’s go back to the conundrum of food spending rising while in-store retail spending is declining. Consider that the market is now replete with a new generation of consumers – Gen X and the Millennials. We know that they are the new guard and have a particular affection for technology, speed, and convenience. With this App-Centric generation driving consumption it has moved retailers of all types to  rapidly adopt “Click to Order.”  Perimeter shopping is now a real “thing.” The perimeter is becoming the four sides of their Laptop, Tablet, and/or Smartphone. Primary position for messaging and engagement is being redefined to include consumers’ digital screens.

A new age of retail is definitely upon us. The tradition of brick and mortar is fading, and the importance of attracting and engaging consumers is escalating by the moment. It would be good advice for every retailer to consider these questions as they relate to a go-to-market strategy and tactics:

  1. How does your brand connect with consumers in their everyday life?
  2. Are you communicating in a way that the shoppers are most receptive?
  3. When is the optimal time to convey your message and with what frequency?
  4. Is your message resonating with your diverse shoppers?
  5. Do you have a defined digital strategy that puts the right content in front of your device-driven consumers?
  6. Is your content data driven and dynamic?

Digital Signage Today makes reference to three trends that should be top of mind for every progressive retailer. The trends beg some questions and some resulting action. Said differently, what are you doing to address the trends and enhance your market position, revenues, and customer loyalty?

Mobile Integration – Messaging that is present wherever shoppers need or want, in an easily accessible small or large format. Is there consistency in messaging and experience across the devices consumers use to engage your brand, whether on your phone, tablet, laptop, or your larger digital screens? 

Segmentation – Relevance of your messaging, based on consumer profiles, purchase habits, time and place all coming together for effective marketing. Will your partner deliver Return on Investment and Return on Experience? Does the digital solution enhance the experience beyond the aesthetic appeal?  Does your partner excel at the intersection of art and science?

Dynamic Content – Your digital message has just a few seconds to capture eyeballs and drive finger taps/swipes to purchase based on daypart and various other factors. If your decisions aren’t driven by data, what are you using to maximize your digital landscapes?

Your best digital business partner, listens to your specific business needs, and respectfully probes for latent needs. Above all else, they will provide data driven design and expertise you don’t have. That means you’ll need to make sure that you have a digital messaging partner that is experienced in using data to inspire and evolve your messaging. This is the way that you’ll remain on pace and relevant with consumers, without breaking the bank.

The closer you can get to “real time” data evaluation and reaction, the closer you will be to helping predict and influence your customers’ behavior. Keep in mind that data is everywhere – you just have to make a commitment to capturing it. Whether its’s through the POS terminal, inventory systems, proximity devices, loyalty programs, kitchen display systems, or even NFC, you can get data to help you understand and influence consumers. It is a commitment and an additional expense, but it may have the quickest ROI of any investment you will make as a retailer or restaurant operator. And the longer you wait, the more you stand to lose as your competitors increase their data agility.

The discussion of omni-channel is an important one simply because each channel requires different thinking and a slightly different strategy. But there are two constants in every channel – leveraging data and data-connected communication. In this increasingly electronic age, no form of communication is more important and pliable than digital communication. If you don’t have that skill at your fingertips, then find a partner that is experienced with both, so you can move toward stronger engagement and behavior prediction. As with any investment, it’s important to build a digital/data partnership with someone who has been there before and has a track record of providing ROI.

I’ll close with a short checklist of things that you should look for in a digital signage, communication, and data-sensitive partner. This might help as you make a new commitment to a digital investment ROI.

  • Experience with Enterprise Solutions
  • System Integration Experience
  • Data Driven Design Mentality
  • Provides Data Analytics & Insights
  • Content Creation Developed In-House
  • Provides Design and Installation of Solution
  • Unique Hardware Solutions, but is Hardware Agnostic
  • Local & Centralized Content Management
  • Social Media and Loyalty Tie-ins
  • US Based Support 24/7/365
  • Industry Awarded and Recognized
  • Proof of Concept Offered
  • Guarantee of ROI
  • Return on Experience Demonstration
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