Written by Rosa Stocks, One Step Marketing Blogger

By the time you read this piece, the holiday season will be over, and we will be in a brand-new year. What will 2018 hold for retail? Many experts say augmented reality, voice search technology, conscientious consumers, Internet of Things, computer learning, and so much more. Renewal and reinvention… that is the future of retail.  All very exciting. But, is it true?

As someone in the retail industry, I would say yes for the retailers breaking new ground in the industry. As a shopper? Retailers are still far away from implementing such technology when many are still struggling to implement the essentials for a seamless shopping experience to their customers. One such essential is inventory availability across all touchpoints. In laymen’s terms, what you see online will be at the store and vice versa.

In RIS News 2017 Shopper Insight 360° report, “store products not synced with the website” was one of the 3 top frustrations for customers with retailers.

Now, as someone in the industry, I understand physical stores cannot stock every product that is available online, although it would be ideal if they could. But as a shopper who practices the art of webrooming — researching online and proceeding to buy in the store— during the holiday season, it can be very frustrating and disappointing.

“42% of millennials research items online but buy them in store”-   Oracle “The Power and the Money.”

Like many shoppers, I still enjoy the in-store experience. Online shopping may be convenient but, it still lacks the ability to touch, smell, and see the item before buying. And, although online shipping has improved over the years, even great retailers like Amazon can fail at times to provide you an item in time… especially in situations when you need the item the day before Christmas because your husband forgot certain people on the Christmas shopping list. This is where brick-and-mortar stores have the ability to excel. The last-minute shopper, the impulse buyer, or the in-store experience shopper, they are all shopping habits that bring customers into stores. Brick-and-mortar stores need to be ready to meet the demands of these shoppers. This includes providing them with quality inventory selection, having at least the inventory promoted online also available at the store, and making said inventory easy to find in the store. You don’t want to lose a sale because the customer didn’t see the product he or she specifically traveled to your store to buy. The chances of the customer buying another item in your store in lieu of the one they were looking for is very low to the chances of the customer walking out of the store disgruntled and going somewhere else. I should know, I did it three times during the holidays and believe me the retailers I was disappointed with were not your mom and pop shops. They were retailers I expected to be on target with their Omni Channel strategy.

So, before we jump to augmented reality technology, let’s first make sure essential retail strategies like advanced inventory management tools and inventory planning are in place to efficiently and effectively provide your customers the seamless shopping experience they expect from you.