They’re online before, during, and after the purchase. They shop you and read critiques about you. They check out your social media pages, and they notice if you don’t have them. They do as much of this from their mobile devices as is possible. And when it’s time to open their wallets, they’ll come to your store but they will still expect you to know more about what they’re purchasing than they do. And…they want all these experiences to be seamless, consistent, and totally in sync with your brand.

This is the rapidly emerging new breed which does not distinguish between digital shopping and brick-and-mortar called the omnichannel consumer-a formidable customer.

They are formidable in the fact that they’re many steps ahead of the average retailer in their behavior. The vast majority still purchase from traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but they constantly gather intelligence while doing it. A typical omnichannel buyer will check her mobile device right in front of the retail shelf, searching for product reviews, price comparisions, and features and benefits. And when they’re armed with this information, they will very likely march up to a salesperson and engage them with well-informed questions.

According to a survey conducted by eMarketer Inc. regarding consumer behavior, of the 60% who did mobile online shopping research, 57% of them went on to buy the product in-store. And while the practice of “showrooming,” viewing a product in-store and then looking for better prices online, is prevalent among 40% of U.S. consumers, price differentiation is becoming less a factor in the purchasing decision.

The shopping and purchasing experiences are, clearly, by no means exclusively digital or exclusively destination, and these consumers are more apt to patronize retailers who are a hybrid of the two.

Hence, in the optical marketplace, e-tailers like Warby Parker have come to recognize that they cannot live by computer alone, which is why Warby has very publicly opened retail stores and will continue to do so. As it has ventured into this new territory, Warby has been scrupulous about keeping the branding experience consistent regardless of which retail channel the consumer pursues.

This is the lesson for those optical people who sell vision care products and services in a brick-and-mortar but rail against the online scourge. The consumer has determined that online is not the enemy, but that you could be if you choose to buck the trend. They’ll go to the guy down the block who participates in digital retailing while still operating a sharp, contemporary retail store-both of which fit together like hand in glove.

In the end, if the consumer votes for it, it will prevail.

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