The Rise of the Omni-Channel Retail Store

  Photo via Anna Dziubinska

Photo via Anna Dziubinska

Shopping has changed at many leading retailers, with the addition of electronic and mobile enhancements to the experience, both online and in-store. Companies like Apple and Nordstrom are leading the field of omni-channel retail. They’re integrating services across mobile and web channels to dovetail with in-store shopping, creating a richer and more seamless customer experience. Shoppers can browse inventory at in-store tablet kiosks, reserve items online for pickup or delivery, and receive personalized mobile coupons and special offers.

The experience of the retail customer is increasingly a seamless blend of the physical and the technological. Combining the best of both is the idea behind omni-channel retail.

Customers increasingly use mobile devices for some aspect of a purchase, even though the product may actually be accessed at a physical store. Major retailers see the value in connecting the “bricks and clicks”, even though online revenues aren’t a major factor for many businesses.

Forbes magazine notes that direct online sales for large companies like Wal-Mart and Target represent less than 3% of revenues. Still, omni-channel connection is seen as essential, increasing sales across the board by improving customer access, experience and convenience. It’s a matter of meeting consumer expectations and reaching them via channels they use throughout the day.

A 2013 survey showed that retailers lagged behind customer demand for omni-channel access, although 84% of the retailers polled believed that providing such access was very important.

The survey, from Retail Systems Research has found that due to access to a wider range of products, multi-channel shoppers tend to spend more than regular shoppers.  Online and mobile channels can personalize shopping and draw consumers to physical stores through special discount offers and targeted ads.

Here are some of the practices that create omni-channel access in retail:

  • Click to Call
  • Mobile Coupons
  • Barcode Scanners
  • Reserve and Collect (in store)
  • Location-based apps
  • In-store Wi-Fi
  • In-store tablet kiosks


Omni-channel shopping is a fact of retail and should be considered in design and space planning. Retail space has to support technology-enabled shopping, and owners should partner with their tenants to anticipate their technology needs and make them part of the store design.

Another consideration is the distribution of merchandise. Truly integrated shopping makes combining distribution systems for online orders and offline shopping a desirable option. This has implications for space requirements and other considerations for the physical space. Footprints for many retailers may become larger, and everything from lighting to HVAC systems will need a second look. Considerations like energy efficiency will continue to be important, and solutions like skylights to save energy will be an attractive option.  The construction industry is taking note, and it should be a consideration in renovating existing retail space as well.

The omni-channel approach is increasingly essential to retail success and relevance. While the benefits don’t necessarily show up as increased sales online, they are felt in overall growth and revenue.  As retailers shift to accommodate consumer expectations, commercial real estate will do well to respond to changing requirements for space and technological support.

What are your experiences with the omni-channel approach? We’d love to hear your thoughts as we continue this conversation on our Facebook page.


Article by Property Capsule

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