Industry leaders weigh in on what retailers' omnichannel strategies need to get right.

At eTail West in Palm Springs on Feb. 27, retailer omnichannel strategies appeared front and center on this year’s program. Retailers emphasized not just the need to adapt to customers’ habits and preferences, but also the need to meet them where they are digitally and optimize efforts using data-driven approaches.

On stage and in the hallways at the JW Marriott Desert Springs, it was clear that retailers faced common concerns. Moreover, they have been forced to adapt on multiple fronts over the past four years, dealing with shifts related to COVID, generational changes and in many cases doing more with less.

Figuring out where customers want to go

“We want to understand where our guests are today,” said Gena Fox, senior vice president of apparel and accessories at Target. “What are the guests’ needs? And that’s part of the science that goes behind it. “There’s also the art, right? And understanding what guests might not know they need yet, but they’re going to need in the future.”

As Fox assessed, those questions at Target extend from merchandising and brand through retailer omnichannel strategies and beyond.

“When we launched our performance brand All In Motion, we interviewed 15,000 guests women, kids, men and understood from them at all different fitness levels. What were they wanting from their apparel as related to performance?” she explained. “And what you find is that there are nuances, but ultimately they came down to confidence. It came down to comfort.”


Omnichannel at Sam’s Club

Two other eTail West speakers, Sabrina Callahan, vice president, ecommerce at Sam’s Club, and Jordan Eddy, vice president, digital merchandising at Sam’s Club, expressed similar sentiments within their brand’s context.

“We are member-obsessed,” Callahan said. “We’re a membership model, so we have to get members in, they have to pay to shop with us, and ultimately we’re going to be obsessed with them for that full year, so that at the end of the year when they have the decision to renew, they choose yes.”

In January at CES, Sam’s Club debuted new exit technology for its store locations. It uses computer vision to speed up the exit process for customers. The technology expands upon Sam’s Club’s Scan & Go checkout system, which leverages mobile app functionality to let customers scan their own in-store purchases.

“What the team has done is developed frictionless exit technology,” Callahan explained. “So it’s first-of-its-kind application of artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to scan the baskets and lets you use Scan & Go and then ultimately [skip the line and leave] the club.”


“We’ve piloted across 10 clubs, and we’re just looking at the member feedback. Is that working? Is it convenient? And did it solve that member pain point for you?” she said. “And that’s a perfect example of member obsession for Sam’s.”

Target is No. 5 in the Top 1000. The database is Digital Commerce 360’s ranking of North America’s online retailers by web sales. Sam’s Club falls under Walmart, which is No. 2. Digital Commerce 360 categorizes these retailers as Mass Merchants in its Top 1000 database.

New retail approaches to social media and influencers

Meeting customers where they are involves digital journeys, as well as real-world paths into physical stores. Online, paths often lead through social channels.

“We have always had incredible omni capabilities as we think about our sites and our stores and how that experience comes together,” Fox said. “The newest piece is really the social component and how that is really influencing our guests — but also how we have to think about that in terms of meeting the guests where they’re at.”


For Target and other brands, that has meant meeting consumers on TikTok.

“I remember it was during the pandemic, and we were sitting at home, and my youngest was sitting on this app,” Fox recalled, saying her son was 5 years old at the time. “I was like, ‘No, no.’ We’ll get off TikTok now. But now, years later, right, like I’m sitting there on the couch at night, scrolling through TikTok and trying to figure out what the latest trends are — and getting mad at my kids when they’re on my TikTok because they’re screwing up my feed.”

Influencers as brand partners

Flashing forward to present day, Fox cites Target’s Future Collective brand as “one great example of how we have pulled this together,” centering releases around social and cultural influencers.

“The first iteration of the brand launched with Kahlana Barfield Brown, and we recently this last Sunday launched our newest collection with Jenny K. Lopez, which I’m wearing today,” she said during her Tuesday morning eTail panel. “But it’s just a great way for us to think differently.”


Prioritizing influencers in these collaborations raises brand partnership challenges as well. At Fox’s eTail panel, she described the decision-making at Target as it relates to choosing collaborators for Future Collection.

“Look at a really diverse range of perspectives,” she recommended. “Where is the guest mindset at? And how do we find a partner that is really aligned in terms of Target values?”

Fox isn’t alone in looking to TikTok for opportunities. As retailers continue to pursue social media influencers as part of their omnichannel strategies across Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and elsewhere, the transactional immediacy TikTok Shop offers underscores their importance.

“The reason we found so much success on TikTok isn’t the number of users, but the ease of shopping,” said Drew Roder, director of studios at Newegg.


Newegg became an early experimenter when TikTok Shop launched, touting its own success with in-house talent who produce videos across multiple accounts to sell consumer electronics products. At their panel, Newegg’s speakers showed a short TikTok video of a neck massager, which received 19.7 million views organically, and which they said was responsible for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in sales. They also pointed to survey data from PowerReviews that showed 57% of Gen Z shoppers consider TikTok videos when making beauty-related purchases.

Newegg is No. 57 in the Top 1000, under the Consumer Electronics category.

Keeping retailer omnichannel strategies data driven

Wherever retailers choose to deploy their omnichannel strategies, tracking and interpreting data properly play key roles. Ryan Hofmann, vice president, CRM and channel marketing at Forever 21, urged data-driven and simplified approaches. Specifically, he said such a strategy can be vital when retailers are forced to do more with constrained resources.

“I think the complications come in between these, but it’s really just about audiences and messaging,” Hofmann said. “And when you think about marketing in that context or framework, now you’re focused on the audience, on the customer, right? I can either take that audience and find the right message to send to that audience. Or sometimes I start with a message and I’ve got to go find the right customer audience to send that message to.”


Optimizing and evaluating results along the way, meanwhile, can mean focusing and making decisions about which numbers ultimately matter.

“The metrics is where you need to change first and foremost,” Hofmann asserted. “Getting away from channel KPIs, opens, and clicks and impressions and spend, grow ads to really ‘How many new customers am I driving? What’s my new customer percentage mix? What’s my retention rate? How many one-and-done customers do I have versus those that are making their second or fourth, fifth purchase right?'”

In the “blend of art and science” Fox said is necessary for successful omnichannel marketing, this is where the science comes in. That can be the case even when predicting people’s needs can become more of an art.

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