January 04, 2024

The Perfect Omnichannel Experience

Based on the subject line above and prior use of the word "Omnichannel" in the titles of my posts, this is going to be the most popular article of 2024. At least so far.

I needed to return an item to Amazon. Amazon recommended driving to my nearest Kohl's store. Ok.

When you walk in, you are greeted by a busy Sephora store within Kohl's.

That's the last time I saw any appreciable traffic in the store. The rest of the store was neat, tidy, clean, and well-lit; a testament to 1980s style shopping.

Kinda like walking into a Younkers store in West Des Moines in 1989.

I made the mistake of getting in the returns line to return my Amazon item. The kind young woman gently pushed me toward the back corner of the store, where Amazon returns were processed. Good, kind, helpful employees.

Another kind young woman met me at the Amazon desk, and in a seamless, frictionless omnichannel process she managed the return in all of ten seconds, handing me a Sephora coupon in the process.

Intrepid Twitter/X user (https://twitter.com/kennakong) reminded me that there was also a Kohl's coupon on the receipt of the Amazon return.

A perfectly seamless, frictionless omnichannel experience resulted in me being a happy Amazon customer who spent $0 at Kohl's.

At some point, we have to make a choice.

  1. Do we funnel money to Amazon?
  2. Do we find a way to sell stuff that Amazon does not sell in a way that customers actually want to participate in/with?

Until that day happens ... until our brightest minds figure out this puzzle, we continue to be happy with Amazon customers funneling money and transactions through Amazon via third parties like (checks notes) Kohl's.

P.S.: One Twitter user grumbled that I didn't account for the money Amazon pays Kohl's to process returns. Yes, he is right, Amazon is paying Kohl's to perform menial tasks for Amazon. Is that the business Kohl's should be in? If the answer to that question is "yes", well, that speaks poorly of the art of retail shopping.

P.P.S.:  Having ordered a to-go order from Olive Garden tonight, I will argue that the very omnichannel tactics that are dooming retail shopping are actually beneficial to the to-go restaurant industry. Seamless/Frictionless? Absolutely! $6 upsells on small portions that you can heat up the next day? Well done! Why would this work so well in restaurants but not increase sales in retail? One word ... Amazon ... there is no Amazon to compete against in the restaurant world. Without the big monster lurking in the background, omnichannel strategies in the restaurant world do offer seamless/frictionless experiences .There, I said it.

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