Omnichannel Integration: Combining Storefront & Virtual Realities For Better Business

The term “old fashioned” has its proper applications in the business world, usually in reference to lemonade. Surprisingly though, the values associated with yesteryear business models – personable service, physical connection, and the idea of shopping as an event – are experiencing a resurgence in the modern world.

Now, it is more old fashioned to restrict thinking to one realm or the other; successful and innovative companies are embodying a complex marriage, or “sym-buy-osis,” of brick and mortar methodologies and technology-driven concepts of the producer-consumer relationship. Referred to as “omnichannel integration,” this idea can be executed vertically within one company or across multiple ones, but the goal is consistent: satisfy the customer who has more devices, desires, and information access than ever before. Below are some examples of companies that are turning the competitive divide between physical and digital commerce into an elegant collaboration.

Amazon Locker 

Already a giant in the ecommerce world, Amazon continues to be at the forefront of business trends by renewing interest in something rather unexpected – the storefront. Amazon Locker acknowledges the frustrating and inefficient practice of parcel delivery and makes it more convenient by utilizing the plethora of convenient stores located across the US and UK. Instead of waiting all day for a package delivery or running to the dreaded post office, customers who order from Amazon can receive a code once their order arrives at the nearest 7-11, use it to open the secure locker housed inside the store, and grab a cold drink while they’re at it. Amazon Locker creatively solves a common drawback of ordering online and attracts more business to physical shops, but it will be interesting to find out if smaller online retailers will be able to forge and benefit from similar relationships.

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Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/psychemedia/8639238223/

Redbox

While we’re on the subject of 7-11s, let’s make one thing clear – these stores might be convenient and the clerks can be worth talking to, but they’re not exactly a choice destination. Just as omnichannel integration is a delicate balance, businesses that partner with the popular chain must remember that time spent at one of their storefronts is inversely proportional to income, purpose, and usually sobriety. Redbox, another company taking advantage of the thousands of 7-11 stores across the country, has utilized smartphone technology to expedite visits to their crimson kiosks. Smartphone users can search through Redbox’s movie database, purchase a movie through a shopping cart software platform, and find the closest kiosk with that movie before arriving at the kiosk itself. No more browsing movie selections surrounded by malt liquor-imbibing persons of questionable character.

Macy’s

Ecommerce has been putting the “depart” in department store, drawing more and more consumers away from physical retail spaces in favor of sedentary shopping habits. Despite this fact, Macy’s refuses to admit defeat by pouring millions into store renovations, personalizing the shopping experience, and most importantly by welcoming technology into its 19th century-established business model. In 2011, Macy’s introduced “My Macy’s,” which aims to entice online browsers with unique offers and turn them into online shoppers.

By the end of 2012, the company plans to add shipment and pick up services to almost 300 department stores, allowing customers who find items online to pick up items from nearby locations, return items that were originally purchased online, or order items from a Macy’s across the country if the nearest store is out of stock. It’s plenty to add to an already complex shopping network, yet a quick look at the company’s website reveals seamless integration and purchasing options that are attractive without being obnoxious. Macy’s seems to be well aware of the challenges it faces as a predominantly brick and mortar company, but by venturing into omnichannel integration, we’ll perhaps witness the rise of a completely new concept of the department store business model.

Renee Floyd writes prolifically for various blogs on technology, ecommerce and news.

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