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Omnichannel is just not the way that people shop anymore. This is what we talked about in our blog post on Macy's and consistency: There can no longer be a divide between channels - they must seamlessly blend together. It's critical for commerce companies to NEVER lose focus on what's at the center of the network of experiences: the consumer. The channel no longer matters, the consumer's experience is what does. And as of recently, omnichannel is no longer a relevant strategy.
In its wake, we have distributed commerce.
At NRF 2016, HSNi CEO Mindy Grossman explained that the retail industry has moved on from multichannel, and now, it's time to forget omnichannel as well: For the foreseeable future, it's all about distributed commerce - "a strategy that allows consumers to purchase any product anywhere at anytime," as Grossman defined the term. It's a world of retail that ignores traditional boundaries and breaks down the walls separating each channel.
The bottom line is that brands today must evolve past simply targeting one customer touchpoint. Grossman asserted that the customers themselves are now the point of sale, and therefore retailers must allow shoppers to interact without regard to channels or where consumers are. That means offering the opportunity to buy on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers; through Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest; across all forms of media; and most importantly, in stores. It means giving consumers the option to click "buy buttons" everywhere.
"Being able to provide [customers] with the same service, products and experiences across all these multiple platforms and channels is the key to maintain[ing] brand identity and brand integrity in a more distributed world," according to Grossman.
And in that world, where products are indirectly sold through a handful of seamless interactions, every retailer will have their own competitive advantage. Instead of shopping for items, consumers will engage with brands that provide unique content and experiences. They'll shop with companies that foster relationships and offer an atmosphere of engagement
Grossman explained how HSNi does it: The company has personalities that sell proprietary products using emotion and storytelling. That's why shoppers are loyal to that brand - it's an experience they crave, and one that's unique to HSNi.
"Distributed commerce puts the point of sale everywhere."
Doing distributed commerce the right way
While any brand can certainly compete in a distributed commerce economy, to succeed with in this new world, retailers need to cater to each channel's unique capabilities and ensure that they are giving consumers contextually relevant experiences that speak to the buyer on an individual level. It's not just about optimizing for mobile or putting a 'buy' button everywhere, it's about holistic commerce wherein each channel provides relevant product information at the time the consumer really needs it bringing the buyer closer to that point of sale.
That is how brands can engage customers no matter where they are and in a way that is relevant and personalized to their tastes and behaviors. And as Grossman asserted, if you don't do it, someone else will - it's a disrupt or be disrupted world, and distributed commerce is the disrupted.
The place to start with distributed commerce is with data and with a passion to accept change. Brands need to figure out what drives consumers, what leads to engagement and what is most relevant to buyer personas. And then, they must create change and get their new initiatives off the ground with innovation and technology. With those two things, Grossman said that brands can "create a frictionless 360-degree experience for the customer." They not only survive but actually thrive in a distributed commerce world.
Distributed commerce is just one of many innovative and inspiring ideas shared at NRF 16. For more on what inspired Salsify, be sure to check out Peter Crosby's blog post on the coolest things we heard at Retail's BIG Show.
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