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Omnichannel excellence: You can find it at Guitar Center

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The retail consumer is a working mom on the go – utilizing her mobile phone to find the closest retail store to pick up school supplies for her children. The retail consumer is a self-proclaimed techie - he would never buy a new device without recommendations and reviews from his fellow-gadget lovers and tech bloggers. The retail consumer is a 20-something, always-connected mobile consumer - she spends hours every day on social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to share stories, likes, reviews and even locations with a network of friends and family. The retail consumer is smarter than ever, always-connected and expects a localized, personalized omnichannel shopping experience across every social platform, retail site or store that is convenient for them. You know this. We’ve been talking about this for years and there is no fighting it now.

Just a few years ago, the shopping experience didn’t involve the same technologies it does today. We’re going through a revolution of sorts filled with disruptive, marketing-powered technologies allowing us to truly enhance the socialized, localized shopping experience for the always-connected, mobile consumer. But which retailers have made the best efforts to optimize their marketing, merchandising and customer service for this empowered shopper?

At the recent Retail Business and Technology Expo in London, I presented my top ten omnichannel, SoLoMo-embracing retailers. My list included Apple, Gilt Groupe, Tory Burch, American Eagle Outfitters, Express, PacSun, Nordstrom, 1-800-Flowers, and one of my favorites – Guitar Center.

While many of us have heard or read about how innovative some of these retailers are in terms of all things social and mobile, there was one particular example that the High Street retailers in the UK seemed to embrace from my presentation. That retailer was Guitar Center.

Most recently, we were proud to feature Guitar Center executives Steve Zapf and Kirit Sarvaiya, on the First Look Track stage at Retail's BIG Show to share how they harness the power of 220 stores and over 4,000 store associates to win web shoppers in a local market. In their presentation Guitar Center discussed how they differentiate and thrive in the competitive retail environment. Going one step beyond added features including pick up in store and return-to-store for online purchases, Guitar Center used their number one asset: their knowledgeable, local store associate (4,000+ of them) to marry all things digital to the in-store experience.

To compete in this new age of retail, Guitar Center launched store microsites for stores all over the country. These sites featured store information, maps, local event calendars, local store ads and spotlights, and most importantly – a feature to “Find an Associate” within a specific store. Not only did Guitar Center feature all of their associates with individualized profiles, but they went to the next level to categorize them as an expert within product categories. These store associate profiles highlighted musical interests, favorite instruments, gear recommendations and more.

Why did this literally rock? These store associate profiles can be viewed by customers looking to complete product research, ask specific store associates questions, and can help drive traffic to the store AND to the site. Utilizing their number one asset all over the country, Guitar Center has married the in-store experience and e-commerce for the social, on the go consumer. They were my ideal example of omnichannel differentiation at its finest.

Omnichannel? It’s not just another buzzword. It is the word that encapsulates what retailers should aspire to be for their customers. Omnichannel is all about letting customers experience a brand, not a channel within a brand. Omnichannel at its best? You can find it at Guitar Center, where they have given a microphone to the influential voice of their store associates… at local stores all over the country.