While Interactive POS lags, Retailers Focus on “Omni-Channel” Marketing

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Life comes at you fast, as a recent refrain from a popular ad campaign reminds us, but progress in achieving the “Brave New World” of Interactive POS Marketing has not come as quickly as some marketers had hoped. The day when a retailer could envelope a consumer with promotions and loyalty points while he was in the store, standing in checkout, or paying his bill, based on prior spending behavior, is still a long way off, more than the 2-3 years that has been hyped in the press.

Tying all forms of customer “touchpoints”, whether they be in-store, online, in a social network, or through a mobile device, is a difficult task, especially when each market is a grouping of horizontal competitors, bent on leveraging every asset in their bag of tricks to woo customers away from the opposition. Visa and MasterCard, two broad-based groupings of similar competitors, took years to develop and span the globe. The new electronic age may be quicker, but connecting everything together in a seamless fashion will take time and a large dose of investment capital.

Retailers, however, are not sitting on their hands, waiting for the inevitable. There are worthy alternative strategies to pursue, and today’s buzzword is “omni-channel” marketing. A degree of clarification is called for at this point, since confusion abounds when new ideas assault a marketplace. “Multi-Channel” has meant to approach your customer from a variety of angles – retail “brick-and-mortar”, online, and mobile. The latest transition has been to what many call “Cross-Channel” marketing, where you demonstrably weave all channels together in a seamless approach, such that the customer gets what he wants without having to bother with how or where.

Experts suggest that most retailers are stuck somewhere between the two phases. Innovative firms have found ways to direct prospective customers from any touchpoint to visit a local store, knowing full well that nearly 90% of sales take place there. In other words, you combine “clicks” and “bricks” aggressively to win the day. “Omni” takes this to the next level by including all forms of social media, emails, text, call centers, prior-spending behaviors at all brand channels, and creative promotions and loyalty programs to wrap customers in a seamless buying experience, designed to gain trust and increase the size of ticket sales.

One industry pundit recently remarked, “As e-commerce moves out of the infancy stage, some retailers are moving to a more omni-channel approach. They’re creating ways to bridge the gap between the virtual and in-store experience, introducing purchasing paradigms that are nudging consumers to upend the way they have shopped since time immemorial.”

The realization is that the real asset to be leveraged is a broad network of store locations. Leading retailers that understand their customers are focusing on creative ways to get them to their store locations. Major consulting firms, like IBM, are counting on it and are eager to upgrade existing digital infrastructures to achieve the task. Other retail consultants are content to sell the “Omni-Channel” approach as a general initiative for all to take note of in well-honed slideshows.

For smaller merchants, Omni-Channel marketing seems far too formidable at this stage. One fact, however, remains – data related to customer-buying preferences converges at the point of sale. It would seem a natural place for an innovative merchant processor to provide assistance for smaller merchants. Merchant Warehouse, with its “Genius™ Customer Engagement Platform™”, has done just that by offering an “omni-channel” extension to its innovative service platform.

Their creative platform now allows retailers to “have access to a single, unified view of all transactions, regardless of where the transaction originated: in-store, online, or mobile. The solution gives retailers unprecedented visibility into their customers’ shopping activities, enabling them to more effectively reach and engage with their customers wherever and whenever they wish to buy.” (See press release via this link: http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/merchant-warehouse-enables-omni-channel-commerce-for-retailers-1817981.htm).

As you continually weigh your options, as a merchant, and how you will eventually compete in this “Brave New World” of digital marketing, the staff at Merchantseek.com is always here to support your efforts. Foremost, know your customers and their habits, and, secondly, be sure to have a merchant processor on your side that is current with new technology and that can support your future choices, whatever they might be.

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