IRVINE, CA—As omni-channel retailing matures, partnerships between physical and digital stores of different names will continue to gain popularity, George Smith Partners’ SVP Shahin Yazdi tells GlobeSt.com. We spoke exclusively with several retail experts as ICSC approaches to discuss how omni-channel retailing will change as the concept continues to evolve. Stay tuned to GlobeSt.com’s sister publication Real Estate Forum for an upcoming full-length feature story on how retail is changing due to shifting customer demographics.
GlobeSt.com: It’s been said that omni-channel retailing is the best way to maximize retailers’ brick-and-mortar and online presences. How will omni-channel retailing evolve as more consumers get accustomed to shopping in both formats?
Faith Hope Consolo, chairman, the retail group, Douglas Elliman Real Estate: They will be increasingly integrated. See something in the store but not in your size or color? Smart mirrors will help you visualize it, and computers will get it to your home the same day. In-store technology will help guide you to what you want, sending you messages (which you’ve signed up for) as you go with special offers, etc. Some stores already are adapting to click-and-collect, saving a portion of their space for online order pickup.
Yazdi: It is true—allowing your customers to shop and return items through more than one medium is essential to success in retail today. Moving forward, speed will become increasingly important, especially as omni-channel retailing continues its evolution and people continue to demand instant gratification when making purchases. In addition, online retail partnerships withbrick-and-mortar locations, such as the Haute Look and Nordstrom partnership, will continue to gain popularity. Again, offering an online capacity as well as a physical store will be paramount as shoppers continue to crave options and speed.
Chris Hite, president, Coreland Cos.: The collection of data and how it is used to connect to the customer is where the greatest evolution is taking place. It’s not about Internet vs. brick-and-mortar sales, but rather about our mobile lifestyles and how retailers are taking advantage and leveraging both platforms. Soon we won’t be focused on where we are buying something. A local retailer will know you are in the area and deliver a special promotion with a link to buy online or pick up in store. You’ll pull into the neighborhood shopping center and a welcome message will greet you to let you know your dry cleaning is ready and deliver discount offers based on your purchase history.
Derrick Moore, principal, Avison Young: This is indeed the new way consumers are purchasing products. For example, we may see an item on our smartphone, and then finish the purchase on our tablets or from the “cart” that we view from our laptop or desktop at home or in the office. If retailers do not have an online presence that allows consumers to move from one device to another, they will lose the sale. Also, omni-channeling allows for additional sales opportunities for retailers by the collection of more information about the products we purchase. Retailers able to suggest additional purchases or complimentary items to goods we have already purchases. This provides a tremendous advantage to retailers for consumer preferences.
Rick Chichester, president/CEO, Faris Lee Investments: Retailers must have an omni-channel strategy to remain relevant, and both formats need to be responsive and compelling to the consumer. We’re already seeing omni-channel retailing evolve at retailers who adopted omni-channel strategies early on. I think we’ll see the shopping experience become more seamless and fluid, giving the consumer multiple options to suit their lifestyles and time constraints, as well as their specific presences and shopping patterns. Data will be paramount, and it will continue to be combined with marketing pushes that tailor down to a very fine personal focus.
Take Nordstrom, for example. In this store, I can order online with a sales clerk if something is out of stock and receive free shipping to my home. If I’m shopping online, I can choose the option to search for an item in a store near me for pick-up. Their system knows what I’ve purchased and can send me email alerts for special sales, events or discounts both online and in-store that might appeal to me. These processes will continually be refined, even as new avenues are innovated.
Chris Macke, managing director, research & strategy, American Realty Advisors: Omni-channel retailing will become omnipresent. Retailers who figure out how to deliver the best omni-channel experience will perform the best as they adapt to and capitalize on changing options available to consumers—those who don’t or who are behind the curve will find it hard to catch up. The key will be “don’t fight technology—instead, figure out how to use it to your best advantage so you can profit in a rapidly changing market environment.”
Cary Lefton, CEO, Agora Realty & Management: Continuity and familiarity will be the major factors in bridging the online experience to the brick-and-mortar experience. Colors, collateral, merchandise, exterior architectural elements and interior design reflecting what is seen online will become more important, thus bringing the virtual experience to a tangible experience.