The Omni-Dextrous Future of Retail: Why Marketers Need to Look Online

By Emma Carey

On the one hand we have the world at our fingertips. And on the other, we have it sitting in the palm or our hands.

This is the hand held generation.

Whilst Internet use generally continues to grow, the surge in hand held activity has been incredible. No fewer than 58 percent of Canadians were browsing hand held in 2012*, and the figure has continued to rise since then.  

Fully integrated software packages such as Blackberry’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) bringing content, media and interactive functions together via a single device are at the cutting edge of that hand held revolution.

What’s so impressive is not just that services like MDM allow us to do so much with a single device; it’s that they take on board the social, professional and commercial complexities of how people manage their lives. The hand-held generation is increasingly what we could call omni-dextrous, flitting between the web and the world to integrate the best of both at the brush of a thumb.

Omni-channelling is the marketing industry’s term for addressing multiple channels simultaneously (think online, offline, social media etc.).

It’s worth taking note of, because it’s something we’re going to experience a lot more of – and probably sooner than we expect.

A striking case in point in how it is the retail industry - a sector which has been massively impacted by the web. In 2012 Canadians spent $18.9 billion online; not long ago that money would have gone across a counter somewhere.

Canadians are still more likely to shop in store than they are online, and they are also more likely to do so than their U.S. counterparts, so even allowing for that massive online spend, what happens in bricks and mortar shops still counts for a lot.

But even here hand held devices are making massive impacts. Near Field Communication technology allows a brief scan and a PIN to complete transactions paper-free and in the blink of an eye. But the software is doing more than simply streamlining the checkout process; it is beginning to reshape the whole retail experience.

Firstly, information about who you are, what you buy, how much you spend and what time of day you buy it are all locked into that transaction. That data is hugely valuable to retailers keen to target their offerings to maximum effect.

More directly observable from the customer’s point of view is the potential to do away with standard checkouts and their inevitable queues. Fewer checkouts means extra floor-space; fewer queues means happier customers – both are retail no-brainers.

What is called Mobile Point of Sale makes perfect sense in restaurants, but bringing the same sort of flexibility and mobility into a retail setting allows for a more customised and more personable shopping experience. The quality of that experience matters just as much as how long it takes.

Fully effective use of MDM for retail means that every staff member will know something about every existing customer as soon as they walk in the store, and that can be in terms of what they’ve bought previously - in person or online - or how they engage with the store on social media. Either way it makes for an informed, relevant and targeted sales encounter.

That sort of customised and customer-friendly shopping experience is what makes buying easy – and that, ultimately is what retail is about.

The changing dynamic shaping what happens when we go to the mall is just one example of how – as the hand-held generation - we are becoming ever more omni-dextrous. There are plenty of others.

*Figures from


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