winter stormBoston and much of the nation’s East Coast might have been buried under piles of snow during the winter of 2015, but the retail industry itself did not get buried. How can that be, considering roads were impassable for days in many areas, freezing temperatures were ideal for snowman survival and people were just plain miserable?

Enter omni-channel, an emerging technology that seeks to unify all aspects of the buying experience so anyone, ranging from the individual consumer to multi-national corporations, can buy what they want, when they want, weather and location be dammed.

According to Applied Predictive Technologies, even with winter storm Juno paralyzing the east coast for much of January, sales were largely positive at both retailers and restaurants. For example, in-store sales for January 2015 were 2.8 percent higher than those from January 2014 while restaurants reported strong same-store sales, up 7.4 percent this past January over January 2014.

Despite these promising numbers, retailers must adjust to the reality that consumers want what they want, and they want it now. In order to meet customer’s demands for the timely receipt of goods, multichannel retailers are expanding the ways consumers can purchase what they want. For example, using omni-channel technology, a customer can search and find a product online using their laptop or PC, but wait, if they wish, to finalize the purchase from their mobile device. If they wish, the consumer can request the item be prepared for store pick-up following the online purchase rather than having the merchandise delivered, thereby speeding up the completion of the entire transaction process.

The emerging trend of fulfilling customer’s desires for merchandise quickly and efficiently is transforming store fronts of all sizes. Not only are they a place for consumers to view some of the retailer’s overall inventory, stores are also becoming the venue for the pick-up of merchandise, as well.

According to a survey conducted by Gartner, a world leader in information technology research, retailers are using existing store inventories to sate their customer’s desire for goods and merchandise in upwards of 60 percent of sales. This reality reveals the measures retailers have taken to maximize their investment in inventory while providing a convenient place for customers to pick up their purchases.

Retailers that invest the time and energy to study consumer’s evolving demands will be more readily equipped to ensure products are where the customers want them. And when the cash register is ringing, whether online or in a store, even a blizzard can seem like the sunniest of days.

Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @girlwithapen.

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