Take a walk down the supermarket aisles of the future with Alan Rowe, ClickThrough’s head of web development. He’s heard a lot of buzz about omni channel retailing and he thinks he knows where it’s all going…

Omni-channel ecommerce is a buzz word that some enterprise systems are using.

It’s a bit misleading.

So misleading, in fact, it leaves us with no option but to scrawl disturbingly scratchy question marks on bits of paper. Source: Flickr

So misleading, in fact, it leaves us with no option but to scrawl disturbingly scratchy question marks on bits of paper. Source: Flickr

They use it to mean that through use of their system, all touch points with the brand will be consistent. This translates to a unified experience across desktop, mobile and email, and other means of access.

This is a masked way of saying they now support responsive design.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. But in essence it is nothing new and certainly not a USP. Open source systems like Magento have been handling this for quite a while.

Yes, we could start getting into comparisons of Websphere and Magento again, but that is not the point of this post.

Instead I want to paint a possible picture of the future.

The Inevitable and Impending Death of the Shop Assistant

Omni-channel ecommerce is about a brand taking responsibility for its engagement with all potential customers. Such things as remarketing are already well along this line…

The reality is that customers are getting much wiser and are using devices to research their purchases before deciding who to buy from.  They are even using devices in store to assist or dissuade a potential purchase.

This machine kills shop assistants. Source: Flickr

This machine kills shop assistants. Source: Flickr

The web is moving towards a much greater inter-connectedness, sometimes known as “the connected web”. If a brand is to take true responsibility for its interaction with all potential customers then one way to do this would be through their API.

Using Ajax, a clever tech firm could create a universal shopping system which – through touch on a hand-held device – could make a purchase wherever they are, online or offline.

The trend for the enlightened customer to choose what to buy and who to buy it from will continue. Likewise the decision for the retailer to use their own ecommerce system to sell will not go away, especially for multi-line baskets.

However what we might start to see is more “quick buy” type systems through devices. This piece of tech would connect to the brand’s API to register the sale and the commission would then go to the reseller the customer chooses to use. This may be a web site, or in an App, for example.

Omni-Channel That’s Genuinely ‘Omni’…

Now before you stop me, I realise that Google Wallet is already poised to provide this universal ecommerce system online – but they mention its offline potential almost as an afterthought.

Several apps have also tried to corner the restaurant market, providing an easy way to pay without going through the slightly embarrassing ‘trying-to-get-the-waiter’s-attention’ routine that’s often necessary when you need your bill.

This is what came up when I searched for 'bill please'. Source: Flickr

This is what came up when I searched for ‘bill please’. Source: Flickr

The problem is, some tech company or other needs to really push into the offline side of things – and they need to monopolise it, because it would only frustrate customers if their version of a payment app wasn’t supported in store.

If any company can do this, it’s Google. But they need to realise the potential of one-click offline buying, and grab it with both hands and feet.

For example, one way a store could capitalise is by publicising a QR code or similar to entice a customer to make their purchase there and then in store, but without checking out at the till.

“We have this item in stock, buy it now and get a 20% discount”… or similar.

Or they could use GPS systems to determine which store the customer is in, and cut even more stages out of the payment process.

The systems are there. We just need somebody to do it.

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About the author:

Alan has 15 years of web development and database engineering experience for companies across a wide range of sectors including projects for Peugeot and Kia. Alan spent five years as Technical Director at a web development company and was also a trainer at Birmingham University teaching database driven web solutions.