Happening before our eyes, the shopper world is blending retail platforms to create Omni Channel experiences for their consumers. This is an effort by cognizant companies to immerse their shoppers into a fused, painless shopping experience. The trend is finding a balance of web, mobile, store, social and other engagement vehicles to create shopper involvement. For some shoppers, this transformation of the retail environment creates hesitation and reluctance to embrace. But for others, it’s not happening soon enough!
Recently, I have been shopping for a new phone. Like food and shelter, phones today are vital to living. Careful consideration has to be made when researching a product in this category. What are the most important aspects of a phone for someone like me? Design, battery life, camera, speed, multimedia integration, and, of course, its socio-economic status (also known as price).
Other shoppers my age pursue the online path to product research resulting in the greatest amount of information for the least amount of frustration and hassle. Personally, I like to hold the product after I know everything I need to know about it. I have my eyes fixed on the Pixel 3, a Google phone that has been out for a while now. I’ve browsed peer reviews, customer testimonials and buyer’s remorse stories on platforms like YouTube and Reddit. I’ve listened to podcasts comparing it to other phones in its tier. Google praises its creation, and in my opinion, with good reason!
But seeing the phone in all its glory online doesn’t do it much justice. Using the product in person and swiping through the menus and features is much more helpful than reading reviews. It adds tangibility to the intangible of online shopping. Best Buy and Verizon retailers seem to be my only outlets to test out touch and feel, weight, and ergonomics. Each store showcases the phone, but with other phones in reaching distance. The cognitive dissonance is amplified with competitors in sight. Even through all the exploration of the Pixel 3, deselection of challengers is less powerful than I would have guessed. I love Google, but the shopping experience product was less than enjoyable. I wish Google took a lesson from their friends at Microsoft.
Microsoft does a terrific job in blending and complementing its Omni-shopping experience. They publicize their product with promotional advertising, social presence, and user word of mouth. They have a full line of products for routine life: work software and hardware, recreational gadgets like gaming platforms and smart devices, down to the very apps that we Skype and chat on every day. Their immersive portfolio of products can be tested in standalone Microsoft stores and mall showrooms in the Metropolitan New York tristate area where I live. The employees there are focused less on selling you the product, and more set on selling you the Microsoft experience. Overall, it’s much easier to understand a brand when all they have to offer is so easy to see, touch, and feel.
Omnichannel experiences vary by brand and product. Some giants of the consumer world have successfully absorbed the idea that a brand needs to live and breathe in all retailing vehicles. Others have yet to break the ice with what they can do. The digital age has evolved smarter, more rational shoppers. They are quick to compare prices, benefits, and other qualities. Phone buying is especially a largely System 2 process due to these being high-ticket/high-consideration items with larger and longer-lived consequences of purchase. The extra thought and time that goes into shopping this category would be benefitted by a friendlier, more enthralling adventure. For now, Microsoft stands out as a leader because of their proactive approach towards consumer perceptions and decision making in an omni channel experience.
Imagine if all shopping followed suit? Picture a situation while purchasing dog food. Here you can compare varieties and prices online which links you to see Instagram posts of dogs whose owners chose the product on their behalf. When in store, pop-up displays that showcase all merchandise further build on the experience the pet company wants you to have. Pet care is a very emotional category- something that pet brands could use to their benefit. What if other categories jumped on board? Categories like home care, auto maintenance, food subscription services, and others that evoke some kind of emotion?
Popular brands are embracing the opportunities of creating holistic omnichannel experiences, even if some more slowly than others. I am eager to see how companies try to mirror examples like Microsoft. The omni-channel shopper journey will take our shopping experience to the next level as consumers, and fully immerse us in the brand culture and values as a shopping conduit. But until then, I will have wait, and be omnipatient.
Nicholas Licitra is an Insights Associate on PRS IN VIVO’s Quantitative team. Based in Teaneck, Nicholas works on a host of categories in US, European, and Latin American markets. With a degree in Marketing and Music from the College of New Jersey, Nicholas pairs new-age market research experience with simple artistry of composition and aesthetics to understand the narrative a brand’s packaging articulates.