It is estimated that almost two-thirds of Internet users already buy online, and 60 per cent of this number are customers aged 15-34. This is the so-called generation Y (or Millenials). It is the part of the society which is particularly open to technological novelties, adapts them quickly and to a large extent creates contemporary patterns of consumer behaviour. Experts have no doubt that omnichannel commerce will only work if it uses modern technologies.
Trade changes because customers change. The technological revolution (Internet, mobile devices) has changed consumers’ attitudes, habits and expectations. At the same time, the way products and services are sold is modified. Today’s buyers do not think about the sales channels through which they buy, but they think about the purchase process as a whole, without distinction between smartphones, tablets and brick and mortar stores. In each case, they expect a seamless, uniform solution.
On his way to work, he searches for a product, browses suppliers’ offers at work on a desktop, and when he returns home, he makes the final choice and finalizes the transaction on a tablet. It is the so-called Millenials that are particularly dependent on novelties. They actively use their laptops, tablets and smartphones and eagerly engage in social networks. In order to meet their expectations, salespeople need to invest. Not only in technology itself, but also in the organizational culture of their companies.
The omnichannel is a natural transition from the multichannel concept, an approach in which individual customer contact channels are not integrated with each other and operate autonomously. The omnichannel is about offering the consumer a consistent solution, regardless of the channel or channels in which he interacts with the seller.
According to the data presented by the Chamber of e-Commerce in the report “M-commerce. I buy with my mobile”, 55per cent of buyers buy products of the same brands in more than one channel (online, offline, mobile).
Interactive screens with store offer, shopping on tablets or virtual fitting rooms are the elements that companies will introduce in order to attract customers. The future belongs also to the Internet of Things (IoT), which is used to inform when a given product wears out or to plan purchases. As much as 85 percent of the customer service process can involve artificial intelligence,” says Magdalena Frątczak, Head of the Commercial Sector at CBRE.
Full integration of stocks and the free movement of products between channels requires the implementation of advanced IT technologies that show in real time the availability of stocks both in the warehouse and in stores. The use of RFID tags and technology in brick and mortar stores increases visibility and ensures that inventory data is up to date and that it is easy to find products. This involves large investments that large market players can afford.
An unquestionable advantage of the systems is the dynamic and real control of inventory allocation. This allows for flexible selection of the place from which the order will be shipped. The criterion of distance to the customer or availability of products can be used.
How does it work?
E-customer in Poland buys a product and the system suggests whether it should be sent from an e-commerce warehouse or from a particular store.
In addition, goods returned to brick and mortar stores can, upon checking their condition, be either immediately put up for sale or sent back to a warehouse or another store where this assortment is missing. The behaviour and habits of customers over the last few years have changed, among other things, due to the advancement and expansion of mobile devices. Their users have become accustomed to the fact that using a smartphone or tablet with network access they can perform virtually any action that could only be performed on a computer until recently. About 37% of online shoppers make purchases using smartphones and about 24% use tablets for this purpose (according to the report “E-commerce in Poland”).
Nowadays, an important element of contact is the so-called multiscreening, i.e. browsing the content on several different devices with a screen at the same time (e.g. on a TV, laptop and smartphone). This activity gives companies the opportunity to influence their customers by allowing them to react immediately, for example by purchasing a product they see in TV advertising via a smartphone in an online shop. Moreover, multichanneling is becoming more and more popular, i.e. starting a purchase on one device (e.g. on a smartphone) and finalizing transactions on another (e.g. on a laptop).
Experts have no doubt that it is technology that shapes customer behaviour to a large extent. What’s more, customers often interact with brands in different channels at the same time, combining offline and online. It often happens that when looking at a product in a showroom, they verify its price in an online store or comparison engines, in order to find the most attractive offer (showrooming).
Not so long ago, the mixing of marketing channels was not so obvious, and customers limited themselves to checking the network before buying in a traditional store. According to IAB Europe, every second Internet user gets information about a product on the Internet before buying it. Showrooming is an example of the evolution of customer behaviour thanks to modern technology and carries a certain risk – if a customer finds cheaper products with a competitor, they will make their purchase there.
That is why retail chains introduce multichannel solutions, consisting in maintaining price consistency regardless of the nature of the place of purchase (virtual or real) and constant control of competition’s prices,” says Łukasz Izakowski (Comarch; Retailnet.pl).
He adds that the omnichannel is based on a mature understanding of the customer’s needs, and American retail chains are a great example.
One of them, Walmart, has provided customers with a special mobile application that helps them find goods in the store and then allows them to order them in the e-shop if it is out of stock. Best Buy, on the other hand, allows customers to check on the spot the price of a product with competitors. If there is a difference in favour of the competition, then the Best Buy reduces its price. However, the price is not everything. As it turns out, a large group of customers pays attention to other aspects related to the purchase, such as security, safety, quality of service, transparency of rules and information, lead time, and convenience.
Almost every second user has at least one shopping application installed on their mobile phone or tablet. On the other hand, as the results of recent research by Just Run App and Spicy Mobile show, publishers investing in m-commerce have to take great care of the customer (most mobile applications lose even 80 per cent of their users in the first months).
Today’s customers no longer think in terms of points of contact with the retailer. They do not think about the sales channels through which they buy, but they think about the purchase process in a given company as a whole, without distinction between smartphones, tablets and brick and mortar stores. In each case, they expect a seamless, uniform shopping experience. Businesses have to do the same: move away from categorizing their customers according to marketing and sales channels and switch to providing the highest quality of service wherever the customer appears,” explains Tomasz Gutkowski, Product Manager at Comarche-Commerce.