The retail universe is currently in flux—evolving so fast that it’s leaving most sellers gasping for breath as they try to keep up. Forget about trying to get ahead of the curve. New buying channels, new buyer priorities, and new business models seem to spring up on an almost monthly basis. And yet, with all the obituaries being written for traditional brick-and-mortar selling, customers still make 94% of their purchases from physical stores. Online and brick-and-mortar stores are not enemies. Just as brick-and-mortar sales are frequently influenced by online research, online sales are often the result of hands-on experiences in physical stores. Creating in-store connections with consumers on a personal level can power your online sales. As retail marketers move forward, their success will depend on being able to recognize and take advantage of synergistic relationship across all the sales channels currently in play. The solution: An omni-channel strategy The one constant in this sea of change is the growing demand among customers for seamless integration between channels, along with personalized, value-added services. From millennials to baby boomers and everyone in between, customers are using multiple channels to learn about, shop for, and purchase the latest products. But embracing an omni-channel marketing approach and providing customers with a genuinely rewarding, personalized experience isn’t easy. The implementation of a comprehensive omni-channel strategy requires: C-suite support A strong Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) partnership A customer-centric company culture Reorganization to integrate digital capabilities throughout the business Integrated customer data and marketing technology tools As more marketers recognize the need for a customer-centric, consistent omni-channel buyer experience, best practices are beginning to emerge. And technology is driving those best practices. Media-savvy customers demand an experience that’s tailored to their unique needs. Traditional tools can’t deliver that experience. Creating a more intimate, prescriptive marketing model will require a new layer of strategic thinking, technology, and execution—the marketing management layer. This new paradigm is built around three key elements: Automation Collecting, analyzing, and deploying the data required to construct a personalized experience that drives sales requires automation. And automation requires some up-front investment, but yields enormous savings on the back end. Execution Automation needs to be implemented properly and customer data sets need to be updated regularly to create a truly personalized and satisfying buyer experience. This is also where content management comes in. No matter how sophisticated a delivery system may be, if the content being delivered is off-target, it’s all for naught. Analysis Successful omni-channel marketing is data driven. The relationships drawn from data determine success. And given the evolving nature of the retail landscape, testing and analysis needs to be ongoing. Why do it now? No single channel can drive sufficient sales volume. The move to online and mobile channels for product research, price comparison, and purchasing has reduced foot traffic in physical stores. There is a corresponding trend, “webrooming,” where shoppers research online and then make the purchases in-store. No single retail sales channel—cyber or brick-and-mortar—has or will achieve dominance. The trend is clear: the dominant retail marketing strategy will be an omni-channel strategy, where retailers earn loyalty of customers by delivering a consistent message and voice across all channels. But it will take the right strategy and supporting technology to reap the potential of omni-channel retailing. Those retailers who embrace marketing management technologies will find themselves competitively positioned with insight into what customers want on a real-time basis and will have the ability to establish a more intimate, prescriptive sales model linked to customers’ personal behaviours.