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Have you ever looked up a product online just because you want to check it out before you go to a store and buy? Do you ever end up finding other products you might like when you do this?

Turns out 80% of retail shoppers these days will check prices online, even if they’re planning on making a purchase instore. People are even looking up products online to find out information while they’re actually in a store.

What does this mean?

It means that more and more consumers are entering stores already equipped with the knowledge of product features and price, especially those millennials. It means that consumers are experiencing retail across multiple channels including mobile, digital as well as instore. Basically, digital information is influencing our purchases at a growing rate and retailers need to adapt to take advantage.

Why is this important? Well, this is where cross-channel and omni-channel retailing ‘models’ or concepts become relevant to improving the consumer experience, and improving a retailer’s bottom line.

Omni-channel retailing involves the ‘seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalogue and so on.’

Omni-channelretail is, in essence, a ‘wholistic’ evolution of cross channel retail. To explain: most businesses will usually have at least a multi or cross channel retail strategy, where they have a number of channels through which they connect with customers, i.e. email, e-commerce or in-store. The difference between multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel retail lies in how seamless the consumer experience is between these channels.

So why is omni-channel retail a ‘thing’? It’s simply this: the omni-channel consumer is what more and more consumers are starting to become. It’s the future. Retailers can no longer look at online customers separate from their ‘offline’ customers.

How can you look after an omni-channel consumer? Think integration, flexibility and availability. Even if an online channel isn’t particularly strong in making sales, it’s still a resource that can be leveraged to increase instore purchasing. Integrating offline and online is a great example: by offering instore pick up for orders, consumers are able to experience the best of both channels. They don’t have to wait or pay for delivery if the products in their order are in stock; they have the flexibility of shopping online at a time or place that suits them; plus the flexibility of picking their order up when it suits them too. The key to achieving the omni-channel experience is to make this process as seamless as possible.