The role of the retail store in today’s omnichannel strategy

“Is brick-and-mortar really dying” is a common question asked by marketers. The answer is no, it’s not.

In fact, it’s predicted that in-store retail sales are expected to increase by 4.4% this year reaching more than $3.8 trillion which is on par with past growth rates.

So retail stores are not dying but are staying consistent with their growth. What has changed is the role of the retail store.

Let’s further explore.

The role of the retail store

Marketers need to determine to best leverage the channel of in-store with your omnichannel strategy.

Many are positioning in-store presence as a convenient, customer service oriented channel that strengthens positioning within the marketing landscape and ‘matches’ other channels.

For example, have you ever walked into a Pottery Barn store (whether it’s the home, teen or the kids store) and noticed that the layout and design is the same, regardless of the channel?

And how in store, the displays are set up the same way they visually appear on the website, or laid out in an email or within the print catalog. In fact, the retail store carries very minimal inventory and the items are staged to be viewed by the shopper so he/she can experience the physical item and then can self-order it via a kiosk within the store or from the associate (avoiding shipping costs).

The brick-and-mortar channel is positioned to influence the sale and is being utilized in new ways such as the buy online/pick-up in store policy. Additionally, it’s aligned with all other channels.

Retail and the omnichannel journey

So how can you detect where and when the customer is shopping throughout this omnichannel journey?

It all starts with customer identification and fully understanding the purchase behavior in terms of channel and device type.

For example, if you’re an apparel retailer trying to drive new customer acquisition and build relationships with existing customers while having one-to-one conversations, you need to understand each customer’s shopping journey.

If you have a customer that shops both online and in-store, it’s important to understand the role each channel has with the customer. She may browse online to see what the latest fashion trends are, but then visits the store to try on the actual apparel items. If she decides to buy the items in-store, this activity is added to her profile which already includes demographic information, prior browsing data and her shopping preferences. Her identity is enhanced and the next time she transacts with the brand from clicking on an ad or browsing on her tablet, the retailer can customize offers based on her individual wants, likes and interests because she is identified.

And from research, we found that retailers struggle with reaching the right customer with personalized content because they haven’t optimized their identity solutions with ongoing, real-time, online and offline data.

Integrating your omnichannel strategy

An integrated omnichannel strategy is a part of the digital evolution in which we’ve all embraced. The retail industry continues to make technological advancements and the retail store ‘gets smarter’ each year.

One example of this is the increased number of retailers leveraging the ‘smart fitting room’ concept. Luxury designer Rebecca Minkoff has introduced magic mirrors into their retail stores.

How does it work? Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are placed on all apparel items which notifies the smart fitting room of the selected items to be tried on by the consumer.

Then, upon arrival in the dressing room, the mirror is informed of the items being tried on and can display the clothing item in a different color, size and also modify the lighting so the consumer can view how the item will look on them in the daytime versus the evening.


Additionally, Bloomingdales has included iPads in a select number of their stores which are wall-mounted and integrated with their inventory management system.

The benefits of the iPad include requesting assistance of a sales associate, checking to see what other colors and sizes are in-stock, reading reviews and seeing suggestions of what other clothing items might go with the selected item, while also gaining insight into the items available online.


Final thoughts

Rebecca Minkoff and Bloomingdales are two of the many retail brands who have integrated technology advancements into their brick-and-mortar stores to align with their omnichannel strategy.

This enables them to create a better identity for their customers by combining online and offline data. For today's shoppers, this integration of data and personalization at every step of the buyer's journey is paramount. Are you meeting their expectations?