Last week I wrote about the differences between omnichannel and multi-channel and stated that most retailers are still really multi-channel.  Which is fine until you figure out that your customers are omnichannel – already. 
I am your customer.  I am omnichannel.  To unwind at night, I’m on my iPad browsing eBay, Amazon, Ballard Designs, Pinterest, Runner’s World, Facebook and other sites. When I’m waiting in carpool for my kid, I’m on my Android phone, updating my grocery list and researching all the things I forgot to look at the night before.  When I’m in your store, I’m checking prices and reviews to make sure I’m getting a good deal and a good product.  Sometimes you’re there.  Sometimes you’re not. 
It’s OK.  When I want you, I know how to find you…well, some of you. But if I can’t find you, then I  probably can find your competitors.
The definition of omnichannel, at least to me, is all about the quality, satisfaction and completeness of the customer experience – regardless of how I begin, continue or end my shopping.  I also expect you to be there when I want you there (yes, I am very, very demanding).  Delivering a holistic customer experience across in-store and online channels and using both to complement each other, is one of the key advantages of omnichannel.  It is also what your customers have come to expect. 
Everyone involved in the shopping experience needs to be aware that the game has totally changed. Consumers demand this holistic experience now – just doing a piece of it well will not get the job done.  Customers will migrate to those retailers where they sense that the process and technology is firmly and securely in place and where their needs, wants and desires can be met– regardless of the channel.
Retailers that can use the right blend of these elements in managing their omnichannel environments will win.  Harris Teeter does this exceptionally well through their eVIC program, which enables shoppers to make a cloud-based digital shopping list right from the weekly ad and obtain digital coupons – all tied to their loyalty program.  This shopping list can be accessed and updated through any device of the customer’s choice.  I use this a lot and it saves me time, money and headaches.  Harris Teeter “gets” the way I want to shop. 
Lowe’s “MyLowe’s” program is also a great example of keeping in line with customer’s omnichannel expectations.  The MyLowe’s program not only keeps digital receipts to facilitate returns and exchanges, but it also can provide reminders for recurring purchases of items like air filters and holds an online profile of customers’ home maintenance and improvement needs.  Let’s face it – how many times have you gotten to the store only to find out you forgot to write down your filter size?  I can use the myLowe’s app to build a shopping list and pay for it, then have my order waiting for me at my local Lowe’s when I’m ready to pick it up.  And my entire transaction history is available to me, regardless of purchase or fulfillment channels.  Lowe’s gets it too. 
Lowe’s has also socially-enabled this program so customers can get feedback from their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  While some of these programs may not all be 100% fully integrated, they are moving quickly in the right direction. 
It doesn’t matter whether your customers shop online or in your store – their experience must not only let them move effortlessly between channels and devices, but it also must make their lives and their shopping easier.  This also means that infrastructure, security and processes must be in place so that the customer can buy at home (or anywhere they are digitally connected to you) and pick up at the store very easily.  And it of course means that your store staff must know what their role is in your omnichannel environment.
Other technologies such as QR, augmented reality and others to be developed should also be explored to add value to the quality the customer experience. 
But first things first:  get your omnichannel basics down first, before taking on anything extra.   Get to where your customers are already.

– Tricia