Omnichannel, and Proud of It

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Omnichannel, and Proud of It

By Peter Breen - 11/01/2016

In spite of myself, I’m becoming a lot smarter about shopping these days.

I’ve never been a very big fan of change. You might even say that I’m a little reluctant, if not entirely resistant, to the very concept of change. (And more than a few people have said it over the years.) I’m not quite at the Raymond Babbitt level of rigidity, but I can get pretty set in my routines.

When I occasionally, begrudgingly do alter my behavior, the motivating factor is often a desire to stop feeling dumb about not changing. It inevitably happens long after societal trends and even conventional wisdom would dictate that I do, and sometimes after I’ve endured some months of public ridicule over it. Case in point: I finally bought my first mobile phone only after breaking down on the highway and walking more than a mile to the nearest exit to seek assistance – as hundreds of vehicles with cellphone-equipped drivers passed by.

But in this day and age, it’s simply dumb not to be an omnichannel shopper. Going to a store without first checking online to see if it stocks the item you need would be dumb. Not immediately ordering the product online when you learn that the store doesn’t carry it would likewise be dumb. And paying for home delivery when you can get the item shipped to your local store for free seems really dumb.

 

This sequence of events played out for me a few weeks ago, when the hacking cough of my Briggs & Stratton lawn mower became intolerable, the victim of yet another summer traversing my dust bowl of a yard in desperate search of grass to cut. I easily found the new air filter I needed at a reasonable-enough price on HomeDepot.com. (Results containing lower prices from both Amazon.com and Walmart.com showed up higher in Google search, by the way, but I’m still a little skittish about third-party marketplace suppliers.)

Not surprisingly, my local Home Depot didn’t have the filter I needed. (Replacement parts became obvious e-commerce fodder years ago.) I certainly wasn’t going to pay shipping costs on a $16.07 item, so I opted for free in-store pickup. That still required a two-mile round trip to the store but avoided the old-fashioned frustration of hunting for the right aisle (I still haven’t figured that place out) and then, dirty old air filter in hand, sorting through packaging to find the right SKU.

The filter arrived four days earlier than originally promised, which made me feel even smarter about these new shopping behaviors I’ve adopted. I’m now an omnichannel shopper, and I’m proud.

Now I haven’t quite adopted all the habits of an omnichannel shopper. The Home Depot emailed a few times encouraging me to review the product, but that seemed a little silly. What do you say about a replacement air filter? It fit into the lawn mower well? It seems to be filtering air adequately? To be honest, though, I did feel guilty about not contributing to the collective knowledge of the digital shopping universe.

As usual, I’m late to the game with these behavior changes. As Path to Purchase Leadership University teaches in its “Digital Shopper Marketing” and “Shopper Marketing for E-Commerce” courses, the retail marketplace has been changing rapidly. But traditional brick-and-mortar shoppers aren’t turning into e-commerce shoppers, they’re evolving into omnichannel shoppers, toggling between traditional, offline shopping habits and new online behaviors as often as they need to and without even thinking about it. This is the new reality, and this is the landscape that shopper marketing needs to understand.

While we’re on the subject of new shopper behaviors, and my own resistance to change, I had an Amazon Prime epiphany last month while shopping for his-and-her Halloween costumes. No, of course I don’t have a Prime account yet. But using my wife’s, I found the matching “I’m With Stupid” T-shirts I needed (for Election 2016-themed get-ups, and that’s all I’m going to divulge). And after ordering them I was given three shipping options: overnight for a pretty high fee, two-day for a still-costly charge, and four-day.

The four-day option didn’t just provide free delivery; it also came with a $5.99 credit to the Prime account that essentially amounted to 25% off my order. Great, now that Amazon has trained the shopping world to demand immediate delivery, it apparently now feels the need to untrain us (to save on some of those exorbitant operating costs, I’d imagine).

But hey, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. That would be just plain dumb.

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