Omnichannel All the Buzz at NRF’s Big Show

By Sarah Etter

January 15, 2013

There’s one word on everyone’s lips at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show this year: Omnichannel.

From the opening keynote speeches to the expert panels and presentations from top retailers, everyone is talking about the importance of retailers creating a seamless customer experience both in-store and online.NRF Big Show 2013

“It’s crazy,” mused one attendee after she bumped into my arm, spilling my hot coffee all over my hand. “Every single panel this year involves something digital—smartphones or data or the website to understanding your customer. It wasn’t like this last year.”

I wiped the scalding coffee off and thought about her comment as I went to various sessions myself.

Brooks Brothers Actively Listens to Customers

One of the standout sessions was part of Shop.org’s First Look Sessions: Customer Centric Innovation at Brooks Brothers. Ken Seiff, Brooks Brother’s EVP, Direct and Omni-Channel, delivered a presentation that examined one of the company’s core focuses: Listening to what customers say and responding to it.

But with the growing popularity of the web, the company had to go beyond its roots of listening to in-store visitors. And while Brooks Brothers is focused on listening to customer behaviors on online, the company knew it needed a system that would allow customers to communicate directly with key players.

The result: Brooks Brothers created an online suggestion box for customers to send their feedback. But the company took things a step further by ensuring the right people listen and respond to those suggestions.

For instance, after the holidays, Brooks Brothers got an email from a customer saying the checkout process using a gift card was confusing: “It says to enter my gift card code. Hard to tell what “code” means. Why don’t you have it say “pin”?”

Brooks Brothers sprung into action, immediately alerting key players in IT and User Experience. The result was the creation of an image showing where the pin was located on gift cards. Brooks Brothers also responded to all customer emails about the issue, letting everyone know it had fixed the issue and thanking them for their feedback.

Solving the Search Problem

During another panel, Lost in a Turbulent Sea of Data: Solving the Consumer “Search and Discovery” Dilemma, a panel of experts from eBay, @Walmartlabs, and Retail Industry Marketing discussed a problem they all hoped to solve: Inefficient online searches.

The issue: Since there’s not one universal way to describe a product, it can be very difficult for consumers to find what they’re looking for online and buy it. As they discussed the issue, a picture of a sneaker flashed onto the screen.

“What would you call this? A sneaker? An athletic shoe? A running shoe? How would you search for it?” the panel asked. Searching for one of those terms on a website might bring up exactly what a visitor is looking for, but searching the same term on another website could lead the customer nowhere.

As the lines between online and in-store shopping continue to blur, it’s necessary for omnichannel retailers to create a new classification system for flexible search, urged the panelists. They described a need for a common language used by all retailers, particularly online, to help make it easier for visitors to find and buy what they are looking for.

Deloitte Reveals Global Study

In another session, Deloitte discussed its “Global Powers of Retailing” study, which ranks the top retailers in the world, and provides a nice look at retail trends. The report predicts a huge shift in retailing thanks to the “collision of the virtual and physical world” that’s changing the behaviors of shoppers.

That’s right: Omnichannel, omnichannel, omnichannel.

Deloitte lays out a great step-by-step plan for retailers to do just that in the report, focusing on hiring or training tech-savvy employees, adopting a single customer strategy and vision across all channels, and creating a deep understanding of customers.

Another one of Deloitte’s recommendations practically jumps off the page of the report: “Use real-time data to provide relevant real-time promotions to further personalize the shopping experience.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Sarah Etter is the former the senior editor at Monetate. Before joining Monetate, she was a writer for various online and print publications, and served as the associate editor of The Internet & Marketing Report newsletter. Sarah also loves fiction writing and ice hockey... yes, ice hockey.

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