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Retail and Foodservice 2025: Omni-Channel Proficiency

Ed_McKiernan Ed McKiernan | President, Emerson Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Welcome back for the final installment of our series highlighting the top five trends driving change within the grocery retail and chained foodservice markets in the coming years. The final trend we are taking a closer look at is Omni-Channel Proficiency.

Emerson and global research firm Euromonitor International worked together to identify the megatrends impacting retail and restaurant operations and facilities management over the next eight years.

If you haven’t already, you may want to first read our previous posts where we focused on the first four trends: Digital Shoppers, Focus on Convenience,  New Retail Formats, and Experiential Retail.

So what do we mean by Omni-Channel Proficiency? The common misconception is that “omni-channel” refers solely to online consumer engagement and shopping. It is more than that. It has to do with looking at all the different ways retailers need to be available for consumer engagement. A growing number of consumers are no longer coming to the retailer. To capture sales, retailers need to meet consumers halfway and go where they are; they need to be omnipresent.

The omni-channel concept pulls together many of the topics previously discussed within the other trends, including digital devices, customer experience, convenience, and Millennials. Omni-channel consumers have more frequent shopping experiences and spend more money than traditional shoppers. According to recent research, there has been a 23 percent increase in shopping trips among U.S. omni-channel shoppers and a 13 percent increase in spend among the group.

Omni-Channel Proficiency means facilitating sales anytime, anywhere in a seamless way for consumers. These consumers are “always shopping.” They are checking prices or browsing on their smartwatches or phones at all hours of the day and night. They want consistent experiences online and in brick-and-mortar locations.

One way retailers are trying to create this consistent experience is through customer loyalty programs. Unfortunately, many programs are falling short of consumer expectations. The most common mistake that retailers make with their loyalty program is that they treat it as a completely different entity within their brand. For instance, only allowing use of loyalty card online or in brick-and-mortar sites, or putting restrictions on use through the brand’s mobile app.

From a consumer perspective, that can be really frustrating. They want one seamless experience, regardless where or when they are interacting with the brand. And surprising to some, they do not necessarily want everything to be only digital or online. This is supported by the fact that we are seeing traditional online players incorporating brick-and-mortar into their brand experience. For instance, Amazon recently opened a bookstore location and will soon be introducing its curbside drive-up grocery store.

So, what can retail and foodservice organizations do in terms of facility management and operations to help support Omni-Channel Proficiency?

  • Facilities – Ensure seamless interaction between technology, operations, and store design to increase customer engagement and eliminate inefficiencies and lower costs.
  • Supply Chain – Increase focus on tracking inventory and warehouse strategy to expand reach at low costs and fulfill multiple channels from one site.
  • e-Commerce – Implement an infrastructure that supports online interaction and personalized, real-time engagement to slow industry commoditization and build equity against competitors.
  • Human Resources – Offer consistent customer service that allows troubleshooting and product returns from anywhere to increase customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty.
  • Customer Experience – Create consistent experience across formats that enables the ability to shop anywhere, anytime to increase brand loyalty and sales.

As the trends covered in this series illustrate, the grocery retail and chained foodservice environments are quickly evolving. It’s important that operators understand the impact these changes will have on their operations and plan accordingly to ensure strong sales and customer loyalty.

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