Surge of Store Closings Reveals Greater Need for Omnichannel

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With the holiday shopping season behind us, retailers have planned a tidal wave of store closings for 2015. Among the closings are Macy's, JCPenney, Guess, Radio Shack, as well as teen apparel stores Delia's, Aeropostale, Wet Seal, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Omnichannel

With the holiday shopping season behind us, retailers have planned a tidal wave of store closings for 2015. Among the closings are Macy's, JCPenney, Guess, Radio Shack, as well as teen apparel stores Delia's, Aeropostale, Wet Seal, and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Macy's said it will be closing 14 stores and JCPenney, 40. Terry J. Lundgren, Macy's Chairman and CEO said in a statement, "Our business is rapidly evolving in response to changes in the way customers are shopping across stores, desktops, tablets, and smartphones."

As shoppers' buying habits change and the virtual world strengthens, bricks and mortar retailers find themselves climbing an uphill battle. In the U.S., Forrester Research showed that $248.7 billion online sales were expected by the end of 2014 and are expected to reach $370 billion by 2017.

To compete with online, bricks and mortar retailers must get serious this year about their omnichannel strategies, clearly defining them, embracing technologies to enable seamless cross-channel interactions, and creating competitive differentiation.

Here are three omnichannel imperatives to help retailers stay competitive with online and physical stores in the coming months.

1. Offer shopping apps that create ease and convenience for shoppers.

Consumers' phones are loaded with apps. To entice usage, retailers must offer apps that create value for shoppers. Apps loaded with store maps, peer reviews, scanners, mobile pay, price matching, and the ability to find help fast in stores is essential to keeping customers returning to physical locations.

2. Eliminate the silos between online and physical stores.

Over the past year, I've spoken to a number of retailers whose online and offline merchandising channels still operate separately with separate lines of business, executive teams, and merchandising strategies. This type of independent organization creates problems both internally and externally, creates communications barriers, and contributes to enabling true omnichannel success. Retailers must break down these internal barriers if they plan on competing successfully across channels this year.

3. Equip in-store associates with digital devices

Retailers must work diligently to bring the online world into their physical worlds this year and that requires outfitting associates with the tools they need to easily access the virtual world. Associates should have the ability to easily streamline product videos, conduct price matching searches, order products online that aren't available in the stores, and help customers check out easily through mobile.

Tomorrow I'll be attending the National Retail Federation's Big Show in New York City and will be in search of innovative examples of retailers that have embraced omnichannel. I hope to share them with you in this blog.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION