October 14, 2014

Buying an iPhone 6 - Omnichannel!!

Your business is probably in lock-down ... your IT team won't let you do anything, in an effort to "protect the business" through Christmas.

Other businesses are at the whim of technology. Imagine having to forecast the sale of tens of millions of iPhones? Good luck getting that right. No amount of genius can allow anybody to accurately forecast that kind of demand.

So when I visited my local mobile phone provider on Monday, I, too, wanted to upgrade one of the phones in the household to an iPhone 6.

Step 1: Upon entrance, I was greeted by a tablet-toting employee. I told the employee I wanted to trade in an iPhone 4s for an iPhone 6 - 16gb. I stated the color I wanted. My name was logged, and I was told that it would take 30 minutes before somebody could chat with me. Alright.

Step 2: 42 minutes later, an earnest employee greets me. He asks me what I want - I again communicate the iPhone 6 color/storage request. He nods his head, apologizes for the long wait, and then communicates that the iPhone 6 is sold out. He offers to order one for me, online. I offer to go home and order it myself. He again offers to do the work for me, given that I stood in line for 42 minutes. But I've just wasted 42 minutes, plus travel time, and there's no way I am wasting another 20 minutes while being up-sold on tablet choices.

Now, the omnichannel community once again clinks their champagne glasses in celebration, for #omnichannel has saved yet another sale. They cheer the "bricks 'n clicks" dynamic that resulted in a purchase. They love the fact that inventory systems could get the customer what the customer wanted.

Are these folks right? Of course they are right.

But the whole thing is simple mudheaded nonsense, and you know it is.

Omnichannel creates a severe disincentive to ever visit a store. Why should I ever visit again and spend 42 minutes staring at a Bose wireless speaker that intermittently plays a selection of Maroon 5 tunes to be disappointed by sales staff that already knew the phone was not in stock and allowed me to stand there like an idiot?

Omnichannel is killing retail. Omnichannel, and distant relative Multichannel encouraged customers to use the website, and now mobile, to never have to set foot in a store again. Unless the store has a special purpose that cannot be replicated online, describe the reason why the customer should ever visit the store? Be honest!

In my case, the sales staff voided any omnichannel benefits by making me wait 42 minutes to obtain information they already knew ahead of time. Now, mobile phone carriers don't make real money in retail anyway, so I'm sure they don't care. But I care. And you care. And your business probably has similar situations where you are encouraging customers to never visit your store again. What happens when you've convinced half your audience to never, ever visit a retail store again? How do you cover the fixed costs of that store?

Discuss.