The New Omni-Channel Approach

In our last blog post, we looked into some big retail/ecommerce trends that are going to come into action in 2015. One of those trends was Omni-Channel Marketing. Following this, we wanted to put the spotlight on brands and retailers who have really championed the Omni-Channel experience. These brands/companies have joined up their digital strategy with their physical stores very successfully.

Dubbed a ‘high-tech retail temple’ by Business of Fashion, men’s trainer store Sneakerboy (see store image above) is the brainchild of Chris Kyvetos. A former Creative Director and buyer at Australian men’s department store Harrolds and a long-time trainer enthusiast, Kyvetos laid plans to target a rapidly emerging generation of luxury consumers with an offering focused on trainers and trainers alone. Stocking trainers from Balenciaga, Rick Owens, Pierre Hardy, Raf Simons, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Lanvin, Kris van Assche, Zanotti and more, Sneakerboy also holds special lines, limited edition collections, collaborations and pre-releases by Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Diemme, Common Projects and Boris Bidjan Saberi.

Alongside his partners Theo Poulakis (Harrolds founder) and Guy Obeid (financier), Kyvetos needed a next generation retail model to target the luxury consumer. Kyvetos explains:

Young people know what they want; they are used to controlling their own environment, they shop online. I think they should be able to do that in the store as well. Our customers can come in, see an amazing range of products that are relevant to their tastes. They can touch it, feel it, try it on, then scan it themselves, check if their size is available, then buy it from an iPad or phone and it will be delivered within three days.” 

Like Apple stores, Sneakerboy has no fixed points of sale. Instead, consumers check out via a Sneakerboy app (on their own phones or in-store iPads) that remembers their shoe size, payment preferences and purchase history — and provides tailored information about new products.

What’s more, the store’s product release cycle is more in tune with the rhythm of the Internet than traditional seasonal drops, peppering a constantly updated, seasonless feed of new products with ‘quick strike’ releases of special limited editions.

But perhaps most importantly, Sneakerboy houses no purchasable inventory on site, only a range of samples in various sizes for fitting purposes. All transactions are processed via a single web platform and product ships from a logistics hub in Hong Kong, which means quick deliveries to China.

“As a multi-brand retailer we don’t have the margins of a vertically integrated business, so we think the efficiencies, both in the stores and with a centralised stock holding will hopefully help us to fund growth,” says Obeid. Sneakerboy’s agile approach is a testament to how shopping habits for that genre are changing.


But what does this mean for traditional retail spaces?

British retail giant Burberry, for example, has earned itself a reputation within the luxury industry as a digital pioneer and has successfully integrated the digital world into their flagship store. Internally referred to as ‘Burberry World Live’, the boutique is located down Regent Street in London and is housed in a Grade II listed building. The layout of the store was dictated by the site map of the Burberry Ecommerce site. Much like a ‘homepage’, visitors walk into a space containing the whole collection, but as they move through, the offer becomes increasingly more specific as you ‘click-through’ the world of Burberry. Floor space is divided between Bespoke, Acoustic and Experiences, just as digital space is divided on burberry.com.

The brand has even embedded digital chips into products, which activate short films telling the story of its creation from sketches to runway edits. When consumers move throughout the store, various mirrors turn into digital screens that react to the ‘radio-frequency identification’ chips and related content is streamed to that screen.

In an article to GQ, Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey said : “We had realised that we had created a lot of platforms that only exist online, so we decided we had to bring these to life. Our approach to the store was to make a bridge between the online and offline experience. Today I think we’re less concerned about where we actually shop, and more concerned about the experience we have while we’re shopping.”


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 Jourdan Dunn & Naomi Campbell for Burberry's Spring/Summer '15 Campaign


Burberry have certainly established themselves as the digital leader thanks to its willingness to foster innovation and encourage experimentation. And hats off to them for actively reorganising their internal infrastructure to suit their customer. “We never think, ‘What’s next? What do we have to do?’” explains Bailey in the same article. “We don’t want to check the box and do the next thing. As long as we keep thinking in terms of making sure that we integrate all our worlds, the thing I’m excited about is linking everything up together. Whether it’s Tumblr or Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or burberry.com, it’s a question of how we can make sure that’s one world.”

It has become obvious in recent years that physical stores and shopping malls have seen a plummet in footfall and sales, thanks to the world of internet shopping. Westfield shopping centres in London started reinventing their customer experience several years ago and are tackling the issues of competing with the digital world.

In a recent Business of Fashion article, Kevin McKenzie, Global Chief Digital Officer at Westfield Group said:

I think everybody in retail these days is really focussed on the consumer experience. There is a lot of belief that the consumer wants to shop their own way, meaning if they want to buy it online, they can buy it online; if they want to buy it offline, they can do that. Most retailers these days offer either/or, to get the product to them any way they want.”

Following this development, Westfields introduced their ‘click-and-collect’ service, something that is very popular with many retailers, and they are seeing a lot of excitement and growth around that. They have a click-and-collect centre for the consumer that wants to buy online and pick up or even return in the shopping centre.

Westfields have also implemented technology into their growth. “We have a great pilot in San Francisco where we've expanded the reach of the food environment by enabling the consumer to pick from all the food we offer and order ahead. We will have the food ready for them when they arrive, to really combine that physical experience with adding a digital layer.”

When asked what the ‘mall of the future’ will look like, McKenzie explained that he believes it will be a really personalised experience. “Much like the web is becoming more personalised, I think the mall will become more personalised, meaning when the consumer walks into the shopping centre they will know where to go. Not just by retailers, but by products, by events and by experiences for their own personal needs. Which is much different from any experience that exists today. And the way that we are going to get to that is through technology. No question.”

Click-and-collect services are also transforming with Amazon introducing its lockers in two London Underground stations to make picking up orders more convenient for shoppers on the go.

The online giant is reportedly installing lockers at Finchley Central and Newbury Park stations. Transport for London (TfL) has been working with retailers to introduce a number of click-and-collect services as well as pop-up shops to its stations. Asda has previously launched click-and-collect points at six Tube stations.

Amazon UK managing director Christopher North said: “Some of our first lockers in the world were launched in London and they have become the preferred delivery option for many in the capital. We are delighted to have teamed up with TfL to bring the convenience of Amazon Lockers to an even greater number of London commuters.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “London Underground’s click-and-collect revolution is going from strength to strength, attracting some of the most recognisable names in retail.”

Expanding the Omni-Channel experience further from a Business-to-Business perspective, Red Hot Penny’s partner SEKO Logistics has introduced an Omni-Channel Logistics division which provides a Global Ecommerce solution for brand owners, retailers and e-tailers. SEKO understand that customer expectations are higher than ever and if a business does not meet these expectations they have lost that customer for good. Omni-Channel retailing enables you to deliver a consistent brand experience to consumers, regardless of the sales channel. SEKO strives to provide the same service whether the customer uses mobile, web, retail or a catalogue.

It is clear to see that whether you’re a start-up business, an established luxury brand or a giant shopping centre it is essential to the growth of your company to implement digital developments into your plan. And most importantly, make the experience streamlined between your online portal and your physical stores. The customer experience is at the forefront of all retail businesses at present and this goes across both platforms, online and offline.

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