With the growing sophistication of both shoppers and their mobile electronics devices, omnichannel retailing is all the rage, and rightly so.  As more consumers naturally seek to take advantage of their growing number of options for shopping, it becomes ever more urgent for retailers to respond with a unified platform which is shopper friendly, regardless of which avenue the consumer chooses to approach transactions.

Years ago, Circuit City shook up much of its consumer electronics retailing competition by announcing that all future store-level prices would be reliably the same as offerings on its website.  It was likely that some of CC’s clientele were not aware of price differences between the corporate website and at least some of its brick and mortar entities.  However, at the time it was not unusual to hear customers shouting questions about why the store price differed from the web offering.  Individual Circuit City locations offered shoppers computers on the sales floor which were dedicated to the company’s website.  The news of Circuit City’s platform pricing correction erupted, as waves of angry sales floor questions created dilemmas for competitors such as Best Buy.

The move for retailers to unite all selling platforms in terms of pricing, convenience and delivery has led to what has almost become a hunt for a holy grail.  The fairly new title of Chief Omnichannel Officer is becoming almost common, stretching from divergent giants like Macys to Lowe’s.

The recently dreaded term showrooming is now pretty much coveted as an advantage brick and mortar stores enjoy over Internet and catalog selling.  Consumers increasingly appreciate the ability to actually feel out an item or try it on for size and look.

Now web-based retailers are seeking tech-remedies to combat the clear advantages of competitive showrooming.  This could include virtual reality style product try-ons.  While this might call for costly sophisticated headsets, a la video gaming, even these can only simulate how one might look in a particular garment.  The emphasis here is on a big, somewhat uncertain, futuristic picture.

Before they accede to solutions involving technologies on the cusp of invention, retailers must not lose sight of retailing basics.  These include having sufficient product available at the store level.  Out of stocks look unsightly and are a sure indication of lost opportunities for revenue.  Here a unified price structure comes into play as retailers gain and maintain customer confidence and loyalty.

Recently one of our discount big box giants erred on a couple very basic levels of selling through its formidable and rapidly growing website.  This, while it  invests vast sums exploring alternatives in the newest in retail concepts, such as testing a number of ‘free’ and same day delivery schemes, to one-up its staunch competition.

This retailer’s first recent error appeared when customers clicked on an emailed ad for specific health supplements.  The click sped prospective customers through the carefully expanded corporate website to the page dedicated to the aforementioned supplement.  Here, it quickly became apparent that a key selling element was missing.  Nowhere to be seen was an actual product label nor were there indications to compensate for said label data.

There was a listing of supporting ingredients which focused on preservatives and binders.  Many were listed by chemical names.  Under the term specifications was a simple breakout by Model number, shipping weight, product dimensions, and categories titled: Assembled in Country of Origin and Origin of Components.   For each of these two last categories, the retailer ad filled in the term: USA or Imported.  This pretty much tells prospective customers nothing.

Seeking out other supplements on this website revealed more inconsistencies than not.  Some supplements offerings did post a label, other showed a virtual label.  A number of others, like the one posted through the email, were similarly data-barren.

Checking websites of pharmacy chains and mail order firms, one can’t help but be struck by the consistent display of actual labels or exact labeling data alongside product offerings or availabilities as a click-thru.  This is the essential way for customers to ascertain product potency and composition in the case of the many multi-ingredient offerings.

This labeling information is essential for both efficacy and price comparisons, both between brands and across the retail spectrum.  Often supplements, even basic daily multivitamins, boast of how many tablets or capsules are in a package.  More important is the number listed to make a stated serving.  In some cases three capsules of one brand equals one of another brand.  This obviously greatly affects the value of pricing.

Later that same day, the same retailing giant sent out an email, which upon opening was headlined Recommendations for you.    The products being offered were mostly an eclectic group of pants, for women, the only other offerings on this promotion were women’s sweats and a women’s winter parka.  This offering is at the very least confusing, if not off-putting, to the male recipient to whom it was sent.

To let customers know this was no one-time error, incredibly, several days later a follow up email was received with the subject of… You didn’t see this Arthur. Please enjoy…  Opening this email once again the bold headline was… Recommendations for you.  Again the recommendations were for eight varieties of women’s casual clothing.  The lead offering was for women’s elastic waist pants.  Clearly this supposedly personal recommendation greatly missed the mark.

While well-funded retailers compete for business through rapidly growing technologies and ever-edgier services, all retailers cannot afford to take their eye off the road for a moment.  Promotional emails must be addressed to at least willing recipients, to create future business opportunities.  Websites must be reviewed and revised.  Not only to reflect competitive prices and enticing offers, but first to offer any information essential to an intelligent purchase through a platform of customer friendly uniformity.