Commentary: Omnichannel meets in-store merchandising

By Joe Holley

Omnichannel seems omnipresent in most discussions about the future of retail. The term refers to connecting the store, the web and the mobile web into a seamless experience that embraces the reality of a varied path to purchase.

Retailers are delivering cross-channel experiences to shoppers as they work behind the IT curtain to connect infrastructure so that one day soon consumers don't even think about where and how they're interacting; they're just getting the job done in a new omnichannel world. Much of the behind-the-scenes work has to do with enabling compatibility and visibility across platforms, but in-store merchandising plays a role in connecting the online world with the offline world in a targeted way that is very much evident to the retail shopper.

In-store merchandising has long been able to bridge the online and retail worlds with shopping kiosks and more recently with tablet kiosks. Now with the integration of a mobile call to action, any type of in-store merchandising can move the shopper toward an omnichannel experience.

Deloitte's Global Powers of Retailing study predicts a major shift in retailing that will result from a "collision of the virtual and physical world." Such talk may conjure up visions of some terrible seismic event–and mobile has certainly been disruptive — but perhaps the concept of a harmonious fusion of visual display and mobile connectors on the retail floor is a more constructive image we can hold onto. We are beginning to see examples of in-store merchandising that embrace the notion of the shopper proceeding to the cash register or alternately down a mobile path to purchase.

Below are two executions, and one I'd like to see, that illustrate how retailers can unlock real value by encouraging mobile commerce in a store setting. If mobile is the bridge in these examples, in-store merchandising is the support.

Convenience

The in-store merchandising end cap has always been instrumental in making products easier to discover, consider and purchase. During the holidays when toy sales are at their most competitive and shopping parents are the most frazzled, Target simplified the task. Target displayed twenty toys with QR codes the shopper could scan and buy on her cell phone with free delivery right to the door. Even if the shopper walked out of the store without spoiling the Santa surprise and completing the transaction, she walked out with the ability to hit "buy" on her phone at a more convenient moment.

Customization and Choice

During the fall football season, Kohl's used mobilized in-store merchandising as a bridge to a wider product assortment. They used in-store merchandising and mobile marketing to combine awareness and availability on the spot. A mobile call to action on a display to win football-themed prizes was a gateway to a mobile commerce page with expanded choices for Adidas merchandise.

Cross-Selling

A recent experience with the purchase of a shower curtain at an upscale home store which thrives on providing multiple, subtle variations on the same hew, yielded the perfect example of how a retailer could cross-sell complementary products using a mobile connector. It took conversations with two store associates about the refined differences in color between various shower curtains and towels and a search through a drawer of color samples before coming to the conclusion that the sought-after companion item wasn't in stock. How easy would it have been to provide a QR code on each shower curtain on display that led to a mobile commerce page for the purchase of complementary items?

The mind runs freely to other categories that are fertile ground for mobile connectors that marry in-store merchandising and mobile commerce, doesn't it?

Joe Holley is the vice president of new business development at Frank Mayer & Associates.

Read more about multichannel retailing.

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