This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows
It could not be more critical for retailers to bridge the gap between digital and their bricks-and-mortar stores than it is today, says Xomni CEO Chad Brown. “When you think about what the store does for the online channel, and vice versa, it should be about creating a sense of continuity,” he explains. “Bring those channels together and you truly maximise your return on investment, and satisfy the customer.”
Xomni – a company whose name stands for ‘Experience Omni-channel’ – is achieving this vision through a cloud-based omni-channel experience enablement platform. The company caters for creative interactive agencies who want to leverage the Xomni Cloud to gain access to retailers’ existing systems, add new data sources (think IoT), orchestrate the data and leverage a consistent API to develop applications. Xomni Cloud also incorporates retail-specific functionality that makes building visually rich concierge, assisted selling and self-service applications easy.
“The idea of using a cloud platform to develop applications isn’t new,” says Brown. “However, we are not talking about one-size-fits-all applications. The Xomni model is unfettered UX and scenario development that enables contextual and personalised experiences without compromising massive scale. If our channel partners can dream it, they should be able to build it.”
This March, Xomni launched the third generation of its cloud platform, complete with significant scalability enhancements. “We base our performance requirements on what a retailer might experience during peak shopping days,” says Daron Yondem, CTO of Xomni. “For example, a tier-one retailer’s requirements include 60 queries per second and 11 gigabytes of data. With the release of Xomni Cloud v3 we can scale well beyond the industry’s current need.”
Cost effective and quick to implement, the solution incorporates a blend of typical retail functionality along with some novel capability designed to accelerate innovation.
One such feature is OmniPlay. Highlighted in a recent GameStop win, OmniPlay allows individual assets, product views or the customer presence to be passed from one device to another, assuming certain rules are met (geofence, beacon location or device capability). In this implementation, video content can be initiated from a consumer or associate device and sent to a 4K display in store, significantly increasing the ROI of a passive digital sign by making it interactive.
The GameStop experience is a compelling one, however, as Brown notes, one challenge that Xomni faces is the perception of complexity. “The term omni-channel inspires thoughts of user-centric, integrated, immersive and, by connection, complicated experiences,” he says. “First, Xomni makes integration with existing systems easy; second, although Xomni provides a seemingly endless list of features and supported scenarios, no one said you must use them all in one application! We encourage the use of what we call ‘micro experiences’ to engage customers in a meaningful but simplistic way. From there, you can encourage a deeper engagement.”
With the launch of Xomni Cloud v3, all the tools are there to build deep ‘macro experiences’ and more pointed ‘micro experiences.’ Version 3.1, which is targeted for a June release, will build on this thanks to the adoption of API Management – a new feature of Microsoft Azure.
“APIs bring innovation and agility, and at the same time drive a lot of data that can and should be used to improve user experience,” says Evgeny Popov, principal program manager at Microsoft. “That is why we teamed up with Xomni to deliver a powerful end-to-end retail platform.”
“Really, Xomni Cloud v3.1 should be called v4 as we consider it to be a major release,” adds Brown. “It’s significant for many reasons, but primarily because it will allow us to easily incorporate super innovative third-party technology partners such as My Style Genie.”
A new Xomni Technology Partner, My Style Genie is an expert in dynamic recommendations and has technology capable of putting together coordinating products that are highly relevant based on personal style, preferences, use, or even margin. “Through this partnership, retailers are able to provide the high-touch personalised service of days gone by in store, mobile, outbound or online,” says Laura Khoury, CEO at My Style Genie. “Our web service enables retailers to serve shoppers as a trusted personal assistant to help them find the best products for them, and suggest complete ensembles tailored to their objectives and style. The result is a win-win experience – customers are delighted with the personal service they receive and retailers have increased basket size and customer loyalty.”
Behind the Xomni-My Style Genie integration is thebigspace, a specialist in retail consumer engagement and connected experiences. “Our Omni-Channel Style Guide application needed the power, speed and flexibility of Xomni and the dynamic integrated analytics of the MSG recommendation engine to quickly analyse data,” says founding director Dick Lockard. “Working together, we’ll be able to optimise the customer’s buying decision and create highly targeted and relevant connections while maximising profit for retailers.”
Of course, as Brown knows all too well, the future of retail is always evolving. “The question is, what’s next?” he says. “If anyone tries to tell you definitively what the future of retail engagement is, they’re making it up. No one knows! This is why flexibility is core to our platform. We’ll involve the best partners, give them the utmost flexibility and see what great things happen!”