Mexican retail chains hot for omnichannel

Mexican consumers have been much slower to embrace the on-line shopping wave compared to elsewhere in North America, with low credit card penetration and fear of fraud, among other factors, holding back the e-commerce revolution.  On-line shopping portals launched fairly early on in Mexico, but only recently do the major brick-and-mortar retailing chains seem to be fully embracing the wave of the future, and growth is coming fast.  Mexico’s e-commerce market is among the top two in Latin America with US$17.6 billion in sales in 2016 and averaging 45% annual growth from 2010 to 2016, according to data provided by the Mexican On-Line Sales Association (AMVO).  Nonetheless, e-commerce in Mexico still represents only some 2% of all retail sales, compared to nearly 10% in the United States.  Recognizing the fast pace and overall potential for growth, retailers are taking measures to take advantage, and it seems like all of a sudden omnichannel marketing is all the rage.

The omnichannel strategy is commonly described by Mexican retail executives as implementing technologies and infrastructure that provide customers with a “seamless shopping experience” across channels.  This usually includes synchronizing product and purchasing information across contact points such as physical stores, the e-commerce web site, telephone support, mobile device applications, social networks and in-store kiosks and tablets.  Mexico’s leading grocery and general merchandise retailer Walmart, for example, earlier this year announced the inauguration of its first omnichannel format store in the country, in the Tlalnepantla suburb of Mexico City.  The store features free WiFi, digital kiosks for customers to browse expanded product offerings on line, self-checkout terminals and interactive tablets for individual departments, among other innovations.  DIY retailer The Home Depot announced plans to invest US$90 million this year in store upgrades including major expansion of omnichannel infrastructure, and Elektra is introducing e-commerce kiosks inside its stores to combine the store and on-line experiences.  Elektra reported plans to open 70 new stores equipped with omnichannel infrastructure during the current year.  Upscale department store chain Liverpool, for its part, recently inaugurated a trial “virtual store” within one of its branches, in which customers may shop on line at digital kiosks with the assistance of sales staff, with purchases available for in-store pickup or home delivery.  The virtual stores are expected to be expanded to other sales locations in the future.

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