In fashion, a lot can happen in three years. It might feel like the term ‘omnichannel’ has been in the retail lexicon for years, but it actually only became a buzzword back in 2013. The years that have followed have seen retail shift its focus from product, product, product to a more human-friendly approach – retail in 2016 is all about communicating with the consumer to establish their wants and needs. So where does omnichannel fit into today’s retail model – or, rather, is it even relevant any more?
There’s no denying that omnichannel is still at the forefront of a brand’s strategy. Customers have, after all, become increasingly demanding, as they’re now accustomed to shopping through various channels. Bringing everything together into one seamless model is perfectly logical, and so many retailers have chosen to take this route, from high street giants like Topshop – Europe’s top omnichannel fashion retailer, according to a 2015 survey by consultancy firm Kurt Salmon – to luxury brands like Burberry and Gucci, with the latter sharing its in-store inventory through its website to keep customers informed.
There is, however, a new generation of shoppers to whom omnichannel is an alien concept: Generation Z, otherwise known as the post-Millennial generation, or the teenagers of today. “The old rules of retail no longer apply,” Piers Guilar, executive strategy director of retail consultancy Fitch, told Business of Fashion’s Helena Pike. “Teenagers don’t distinguish between buying online, looking at things on Twitter and buying in a bricks-and-mortar store.” So this is a generation which doesn’t particularly care about how much of an ‘omnichannel’ experience a retailer has to offer: the key is that the product is available and is easily accessible. Basically, Generation Z just wants to shop.
Despite the fact that 92% of American teenagers access the internet daily, with 24% claiming to be online “almost constantly”, they’re not necessarily very enthused by shopping online for conventional product. Teens prefer to spend on experiences rather than more of what Marcie Merriman, of Earnst & Young, dubs “stuff.” Merriman told Business of Fashion that “[teens are] buying an experience and the product they get through it is kind of a bonus.”
With that in mind, perhaps it’s time for more brands to tear up the rulebook and stop thinking too carefully about omnichannel, choosing to focus instead on creating an immersive, exciting retail experience. And while websites, apps and solid social media identities definitely boost sales, there are some in-store experiences that just can’t be replicated online, no matter how impressive any brand’s omnichannel offerings are. To tap into the psyche of Generation Z and its desire for Instagrammable experiences, brands would do well to bring these experiences in-store – not necessarily through traditional bricks-and-mortar plus points like quality customer service and beautiful fitting rooms, but by adding picture-perfect cafés, beauty salons and social gathering spaces to stores. The formula has certainly worked well for the likes of Frank & Oak, TOMS and, on the high street, Topshop’s flagship stores.
Overall, brands simply need to keep their fingers on the pulse. Whatever generation your target consumer stems from – Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial or Generation Z – success in fashion retail hinges on the same qualities: authenticity and receptiveness to change. We’re living in the age of the consumer, where shoppers want more than product and excellent logistics; quality brands have been spoiling us for years with fast courier delivery, free postal returns and efficient customer service. Omnichannel retail models have transformed the way fashion is sold both online and in-store, and consumers have grown accustomed to a smooth transition between e-tail and bricks-and-mortar retail – Gen Z, of course, have never known any different. Brands, therefore, need to reach beyond the realms of omnichannel and its seamlessness. New heights could be achieved by adding a barber’s shop to your store, à la Frank & Oak, or following Primark’s lead by offering free Wifi and larger, selfie-friendly changing rooms. Once a company has its customer experience nailed, everything else, including omnichannel, should come naturally.
Join us at our London Summit (May 17th-18th) to continue the discussion. David Walmsley, Director of M&S Digital, will be one of various speakers to discuss omnichannel retail in the age of the consumer. Book your tickets here.
Reported by Grace Howard
Image Source: Luxsell