The Omni-Channel: Not Just for the Big Boxes

One of the best presentations we’ve seen in a while came from David F. Cook, Best Buy’s director of IT systems strategy, at Aberdeen’s recent retail and consumer markets summit, Retail on Broadway, in New York.

Frank, candid and honest, Cook spoke about the challenges Best Buy faces in building its omni-channel strategy, which is all about offering a seamless consumer experience across all of a retailer’s shopping channels, including mobile devices, the Internet and physical stores. It boils down to offering consumers the ability to access information and make purchases from wherever they are on whatever device they’re using.

Best Buy’s challenges in developing an omni-channel are huge, and every small notch it makes in the plan is considered a major win. Independent CE dealers, however, should not be deterred in creating their own omni-channel strategy. For them, the process doesn’t have to be nearly as complex as it is for such a large enterprise as Best Buy. In fact, Cook mentioned that in-store pick-up, a relatively simple and easily replicable process, was one of retailers most important and earliest omni-channel implementations.

Independent retailers have to start executing simple strategies like that to remain competitive and to offer the best customer experience, which is the ultimate goal of an omni-channel. George Manlove, CEO and president of Vann’s and The ON Store, as well as chairman of the PRO Group, recently urged the buying group’s members at their recent spring meeting to start building their own omni-channel strategies.

That means you’ll be hearing more about the concept in the coming months and, more importantly, that your competitors will start adding portions of the strategy to their business models.

In its most basic terms, the omni-channel is all about bringing basic, tried-and-true customer service strategies to mobile devices. The good news is that you probably already have many of the omni-channel building blocks in place. Make sure to talk to your buying group directors, suppliers and colleagues to gather the information and best practices you need to build an omni-channel that fits your business.

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