April 01, 2014

Omnichannel: Coldwater Creek

By now, you've had the opportunity to read this little ditty about Coldwater Creek preparing to file for bankruptcy (click here).

This just makes me feel really, really sad.

Mind you, the pundits told companies like Coldwater Creek that there were unfettered riches available by going "multi-channel" ... and now, by going "omni-channel" ... sharing "data-driven" arguments like the one below.

So Coldwater Creek followed the prescription, to the letter. A catalog brand branched out into e-commerce, then dove, head-first, into retail ... as they were told to do ... "bricks 'n clicks, right?"

It doesn't look like Coldwater Creek ever experienced the promised "multichannel bonanza". Will the experts take accountability for bad advice?

What does this say about modern-day omnichannel initiatives?

I know, I know, the pundits will say that Coldwater Creek invested poorly, that they mis-timed the market, that their merchandise was the same as what everybody else sold, that there wasn't a buzz in the stores ... blah blah blah blah. Excuses. They'll say it wasn't their fault, they'll say that omnichannel works wonders when you do everything else right. Which, of course, validates the hypothesis that you should focus on everything else, right?!

At the start of 2014, I told you I was going to focus on three things:
  • Merchandise.
  • Service.
  • Story.
I keep analyzing projects where it is very easy to see the merchandising missteps. I doubt this will ever change. It's easy to see +10% or +20% gains achievable via sound merchandising strategies and a solid merchandising / marketing partnership.

And "story" has really evolved for me, in 2014. Story increasingly becomes more centered around "entertainment". If the customer is entertained, then the customer is willing to step away from the computer or mobile device and visit a store. If the customer is entertained, then the customer "engages" with the brand ... engagement is the byproduct of being entertained, it's how we measure that the customer has been entertained (or satisfied).

But the sterile, cold, operations-centric, fulfillment-centric omnichannel story we're being sold? Well, Coldwater Creek offers us yet another data point that customers don't value multiple channels, for if they did, Coldwater Creek would be thriving.