The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

The Wrong and Right Mentalities for Omni-Channel

The Wrong Mentality:

Last month, I wanted to buy a video game. I looked it up online at Amazon, but then thought, we’re already out running errands and my wife wants to go to Target. I wonder if I could get it there. So I went to Target’s website on my phone and found that it was the same price, and it was in stock at the store we would be going to. I didn’t buy online for in-store pickup because I didn’t want to have to wait for somebody to collect that and have it ready; we were almost there and I could just go grab it for myself.

When I got to the store and went to the video game department, though, I was surprised and confused to find that the price was actually higher than I expected. I had just looked up the price; that didn’t make sense! So I had to have the store associate walk the item up to customer service for a price match. It was oddly surreal when the Target employee asked me where to price match it and I replied, “Target.”

We chatted briefly as he performed the price match, and he told me that Target.com was actually a separate store. They compete with Target.com.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve been exposed to this type of situation. As a UX consultant, I’ve actually worked with a number of clients like this. During one website test, a client said to me, “We don’t want the user to find a store. We want them to buy it online. We’re competing with in-store.”

Just having multiple purchase channels is not enough. Customers don’t know and don’t care what backend limitations are or what corporate structures are in place. What they do care about is a disjointed and confusing experience.

The Right Mentality:

On the other hand, there are several companies doing omni-channel right. Speaking of video games, one of these retailers is GameStop. They’ve recognized that customers aren’t looking to silo themselves in a single channel. Speaking with MultiChannel Merchant, Mike Hogan, the executive vice president of strategic business and brand development at Gamestop, noted that they’re facilitating users who want to “research online and purchase in store.”

Omni-channel means allowing users to purchase how they want. Sometimes users want to research online and then purchase in a store (as I did at Target). Others might want to go to a store, do some initial research, then go online and look up reviews and other specifications before purchasing. Brands that support users in this can see the benefits. Gamestop’s “cross-channel transaction services are experiencing high double-digit growth, with some triple-digit year-over-year growth.” Furthermore, “every dollar of direct sales online that the online channels are influencing lead to $10 in store-based sales.”

Of course, a change in mentality like this won’t necessarily be easy. Hogan notes that it is “a strategic shift. Instead of asking ‘How can we grow online sales?’ we focus on ‘How can we drive overall sales, regardless of where the transaction occurs?’” But the evidence is there. By adopting a true omni-channel mentality, you improve the overall user experience and improve your business.

-Matt Daughtry, Senior User Experience Specialist, Usability Sciences


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