The future of omni-channel retail

PSFK, a New York-based marketing intelligence firm, has recently released a report entitled "Future of Retail 2015." The report validates the importance of brick-and-mortar stores, while pointing out that to remain successful, retailers are going to have to incorporate online channels into their day-to-day operations.

"The most successful retailers will integrate their online and offline businesses and understand how these two different channels drive sales in tandem," Piers Fawkes, founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK, said in the report. "Some will turn their stores into showrooms, others into delivery spaces, some into lifestyle experiences. There's no right answer."

Despite being attracted to the ease and efficiency of online shopping, customers still rate face-to-face customer service highly. One of the most important factors in the success of a retail business is the quality of its personal interactions.

Now, sales associates can also be technologically savvy, able both to help the consumer in a personable way and to access online inventory records and stock levels in other stores. This is where ship-from-store strategies can enable customers to get the best of both worlds: a friendly, in-person sales associate and the range of products and information available online.

Customers are also beginning to expect the same level of personalization in-store that they receive when shopping for products on the internet. Payment processing software that tracks a loyal customer's purchases can help stores recreate this digital effect, because sales associates can suggest other items similar to the ones that an individual purchased in the past. Millennial shoppers, in particular, are no longer drawing lines between different methods of buying, so it's important that retailers begin thinking of themselves as one presence, whether online or in-store.

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