For years, the retail sector has been addressing the customer experience with a multi-channel approach. I would step into a shop and be greeted with a default “good morning/afternoon,” be left to browse the shop for what I want, take the item to the till and make a payment. A week later, I want to buy something else but cannot be bothered to walk down the bustling high-street on a Saturday, so I hit the browser button on my laptop and head directly to their website. The people in the shop have no idea that I am now shopping on their website and similarly the assistants behind the screen have no idea that I was in their shop last week.

A multi-channel approach is no longer the best fit for the customer journey; customers no longer choose one main way to engage with a brand. With an omni-channel approach, the customer is at the centre of a business’s strategy, making all channels available to the consumer. What’s more is that these channels are connected, allowing the delivery of a more consistent, seamless experience.

The swing from in-store shopping to online shopping began with Generation X, with 56% heading online to do their shopping, probably due to becoming busier in their day-to-day life. It’s a lot more appealing to browse the shops from the comfort of your own home than braving the high-street, the uptake has been even greater with millennials, 67% of which do their shopping online. Perhaps more surprisingly, nearly a third of seniors are clicking that “checkout” button too. These numbers are merely an indication that in today’s connected environment, a business cannot rely on growth from a single market.

I speak with clients around the world that are yet to realise the potential of sales from multiple places. Consumers are more impatient than ever; they want to be able to shop how they want, where they want and when they want. That is where an omni-channel approach can hugely benefit your business. A lot of people don’t realise how much of a difference an omni-channel strategy can make, but omni-channel shoppers spend between 50-300% more than single channel shoppers, how much of a difference would that make to your profit margin?

The benefits are more than just financial though, by integrating all channels you can analyse different data from different channels all at once; allowing you to truly understand the way your consumer thinks and operates. You can design a truly personalised experience, improving customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. By implementing an omni-channel approach, stores that we could only dream about ten years ago will become a reality. The use of facial recognition at the store entrance to recognise repeat customers that would link to a handheld device used by a sales adviser. Giving an insight into their previous shopping habits, allowing them to make personalised recommendations. We’re already seeing the rise of “fast track” shopping experiences – ordering something online to pick up in store, meaning that people are wasting less time and can fit their shopping around their busy lives.

Mobile payment is also becoming a popular choice; it won’t be long until this is the most widely accepted payment method eliminating the need for tills. Augmented reality will help to personalise the shopping experience, allowing a customer to read through product reviews and recommendations based on their personal preferences. An omni-channel approach will help to understand the journey the customer took to buy the product and pre-empt issues that they may encounter.

Technology has disrupted retail and in order to progress and compete, the demand for digital IT experts has risen. If retailers are going to meet customer expectations across all channels then they must recruit candidates that will enable the transition to an omni-channel environment.