Omnichannel retail, also known as multichannel retail, is a business model that utilizes multiple channels in concert to enhance the retail experience for customers. These channels include brick and mortar stores, online stores, mobile stores, telephone sales, mail order, or any other channel for engaging or selling to the customer. Over the past few years, mobile has become an important retail channel for brands and stores, with mobile constituting 29% of e-commerce transactions in 2015, according to Criteo. Amazon saw more than 70% of its December 2015 holiday sales coming from mobile. But mobile goes beyond e-commerce, becoming the go-to place for people browsing products, checking prices, and researching products before making the final purchase. According to a Deloitte study, 28% of retail sales in the United States in 2014 were influenced by smartphones, which amounted to $1 trillion. At the same time, retailers are increasingly using mobile to track orders, manage inventory, and look up customer information.
With mobile becoming such an important part of the omnichannel retail experience, and with the rise of wearables as an extension of the smartphone, it makes sense that retailers are starting to place more emphasis on wearables. We have already seen a number of examples where wearables are being trialed to enhance the omnichannel retail experience. Devices being utilized range from smart watches to wearables cameras to smart glasses. It is not just end customers who are using wearables to interact with the retailer, but also retail sales associates who are using wearables to enhance the sales experience.
(Source: Amari Supercars, GoInStore)
GoInStore is an omnichannel solutions company based in London that has specialized in using smart glasses to enhance the customer experience. Its customers include a supercar dealership and a furniture retailer that have been using smart glasses to engage the customer, and in some cases also ending up with a successful sale. Amari Supercars, a supercar dealership in the United Kingdom, was looking to convert its online web traffic to sales and ended up choosing the GoInStore platform. Using smart glasses, an Amari sales specialist can now provide a first-person view of the car to a customer through the company’s online portal and have any questions answered in real time. With this technology, Amari has been able to sell cars through its website to customers as far away as Dubai, without the customer ever visiting its showroom. Heal’s, a high-end furniture retailer in London, has also trialed the use of smart glasses using the GoInStore platform, especially to service customers interested in higher ticket items. Using a wearable headset, the sales associate can give online customers a personal tour of the store, provide a close-up view of products, or help answer any specific questions.
The Apple Watch has seen a mixed response so far, with lower than expected sales in 2015, but at the same time the device offers a compelling user experience and has elicited a willingness among developers to play with a brand new user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). The Apple Watch offers glance-based notifications and design guidelines that urge watch app developers to keep engagement simple and quick. Pizza delivery companies like Pizza Pizza in Canada and Domino’s Pizza in the U.S. have launched Apple Watch apps that allow customers to order pizza on their watch, and rather than recreate the mobile app on the watch, offer a simpler but more effective ordering experience for the customer. The functionality for the Pizza Pizza app includes quick menu browsing, pizza ordering and payment, delivery tracking, recent orders and favorites, and checking one’s gift card balance. The Domino’s Pizza app is a bit more limited and requires customers to have created a “Pizza Profile” and have saved an “Easy Order” ahead of time.
Wearable payments are expected to become an important part of customer experiences, making it quicker and easier to make transactions in the store. Apple Pay for the Apple Watch is the first big effort at enabling payments with the wrist. Android Pay and Samsung Pay are other prominent digital wallet solutions that will support smart watch payments. There are multiple other initiatives underway from bPay in the U.K., as well as Alipay and Xiaomi in China. Tractica’s report on Wearable Payments forecasts that wearable payment transaction volume will grow from $3.1 billion in 2015 to $501.1 billion by 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 177%.
Some brands are also thinking out of the box to enhance their omnichannel experiences. In one case, Huggies, a leading diaper brand from Kimberly-Clark, has used wearable technology to create an innovative experience for its customers, not just allowing them to engage with the product at a personal level, but also use it as a viral marketing tool. In South Korea, Huggies provided a group of 10 mothers with a pair of wearable cameras. The cameras, called Moment Cams, recorded special intimate moments that moms and dads shared with their child. The cameras had proximity sensors that would trigger recording as soon as they came within 2 meters of each other. Huggies provided the parents with a video that stitched the two views together, one providing the baby’s view and the other providing the parent’s view. This is a great example of an “out of the box” use case for wearables, where it goes beyond simple browsing or ordering products, to using wearables as a part of brand engagement and promotional activities. The success of the campaign has prompted Huggies to extend the promotion to other regional markets.
Innovative retailers and brands will use wearables not just to enhance the customer experience, online or on mobile, but also to engage with them on a personal and human level. Wearables should not be seen as flashy devices, or be confused with web or mobile, which offer a completely different value proposition around rich user engagements. Wearables come in different shapes and sizes, with varying features. Depending on what the brand or retailer is trying to achieve or improve, wearables can play a role in different parts of the customer experience – from initial engagement, to executing the transaction, to post-sales customer service.