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Richard Honiball is responsible for merchandising, planning, and marketing in an omnichannel environment for NEXCOM, a global retailer with over $2B in sales. Before that, he ran his own consultancy, was the former CMO for Haggar Clothing and led men’s and kids private brands at J.C. Penney. Rich is a change agent with expertise in steering the evolution of brands by integrating a company’s proven, profitable heritage with a forward-looking vision to ensure continued success. He likes to push beyond the traditional boundaries to create unexpected POSITIVE results.

Rich also prides himself in being a thought leader who establishes a brand’s core principles to drive growth in an increasingly competitive and crowded marketplace.

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Dialexa: From your point of view, where do you see omnichannel now? What are some things that companies are doing well? And, where do you see omnichannel going? 

Rich: I think omnichannel is evolving and in a good way. If you go back several years ago when everybody started talking about big data, when people made the conversion going from multichannel or tri-channel to “omnichannel”, it was really about the technology first, and secondarily about the experience. I think we’ve gotten to a point now where the companies that are successful are looking at omnichannel from the experiential part first, from the customer journey perspective, how to improve the lives of their customers - and then are using the technology to facilitate that. The reason I think that’s important is if you go back a hundred years ago in retail per say, you were omnichannel, you had omnichannel. You could go into a retail store, you could trade through a catalogue, you could go to a trunk show, or somebody would go to your office. There were all these different channels you could shop with. Except, they didn’t call it omnichannel, they called it taking care of the customer. So what’s exciting for me is that we’re getting past the point where it’s only all about the technology and to a point where it’s more about the customer and finding the technology to connect with the customer and to make that journey seamless.

Dialexa: What technology do you see coming down the pipeline for omnichannel and what do you hope to see?

Rich: You know, I’m fascinated with beacon technology. I think it can run the risk of being creepy but it’s cool all at the same time. Marketers can filter through a lot of the noise and be able to micro-target to you depending on where you are. I think if retailers, marketers or industries use this technology correctly, it’s going to be able to sift through the noise and to deliver what it is I want as a customer. I was at a technology innovation summit and they were showing us an advancement using a beacon type of technology. Imagine walking up to a flight board and using your the Bluetooth from your phone, instead of having to sit there and search to find your flight, the board “recognizes” who you are and says, “Mr. Honiball, your flight is taking off at 9:55, it’s 10 minutes delayed, the gate changed and there’s a Starbucks between here and there, would you like me to order a latte?” 

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Dialexa: This was at the technology summit?

Rich: This was at the technology summit. We were talking about the ‘what ifs’, and it was specifically on airline travel and the customer journey through the airport and how to make that more seamless.

Dialexa: And this is an actual technology being used now?

Rich: It’s a technology that exists, actually several technologies that companies are trying to put together in a creative way to enhance the customer journey, in this case literally. And again, if it doesn’t add value, it could be creepy, but it’s really cool because what’s the first thing I want to do at an airport? I don’t like wasting time going to the board or even my phone to try and find my flight, and the second thing I’m always looking for is where the Starbucks is. So from that perspective, if it makes my life easier, that’s what I think is cool.

Virtual reality is another thing that I’m fascinated with. I think so much has been focused on the device - is the smart tablet dead? Is it now a “phablet”? Are the laptops going to go away? What’s going to happen with the Surface? And, you’ve got iPad Pro and the Apple watch obviously, I think we’re heading towards a time where the device itself could matter less and everything will be done through some sort of virtual reality. I also watched Buck Rogers as a kid.

Dialexa: Anything else that you want to talk about as far as omnichannel?

Rich: You know, I think it really boils down to the customer. I think the biggest issue that we have right now, we are a consumerism-driven economy, we make less stuff, we buy stuff. But today, thankfully, I think we are making smarter decisions. We want smaller houses, we want fewer possessions that don’t add value, we value experiences more. That may lead to a contraction of retail for stores that don’t offer the customer great product and a great experience, regardless of where they shop. If you say that technology has come to the point where it’s making the customer path and journey better, where it leads us as retailers to the point where we can offer products and services that matter, that the customer really wants, the next step is truly understanding what we want at the end of the journey. And it’s not just more stuff, it’s a better life. And, that’s the dot that needs to connect next.

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