Comment - Retails fastest growing sales channel
Ten years ago, in the very early days of ecommerce, multichannel retailing was almost unheard of. But it has grown and developed within every retail sector – even clothing and fashion, which some cynics said would never work on the web. Today 94% of retailers have transactional websites. For most, their online store is typically their largest individual shop, accounting for about 9% of sales. But many still regard it as a completely separate entity and have done little to integrate it with the rest of the business.
Joined-up customer experience
Customers don’t care about multichannel, integrated multichannel or cross channel. They want the same experience, availability and service from your brand however they shop. Aurora Fashions senior technical development manager Andy Tudor says: “Seamless shopping greatly improves our customers’ experience. BT’s Integrated Store makes shopping more convenient and personalised for Warehouse customers, helping us meet the demands of current trends in fast-moving fashion retailing.” With customers now purchasing across several touch points and expecting things to be joined up, retailers must ensure an integrated and consistent brand experience, with relevant information available across all channels. To do this, many are reinventing their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to better understand how their customers are shopping and make interaction more relevant during each stage of the buying process.
Retailers are also empowering customers by making all products available via every channel, with the catalogue and inventory available to every store. This process could see retailers rearranging stores to hold only their core assortment. We’re already helping a number of well-known brands integrate their store, web and CRM systems. We believe that those who invest in a better understanding of their customers and who comprehend the cross-channel impact of the web will be really successful in the next 10 years. Thomas Pink information, ecommerce and logistics director Peter Mila says: “Thomas Pink will benefit from a single inventory view, even greater customer service opportunities and the sharing of knowledge across multiple channels – including a synchronised ‘single view’ of our customers, products and inventory data throughout our business.”
The road to fulfilment
A 360 degree view of the customer is just one half of the picture. Retailers also need a real-time view of stock to take multichannel to the next level. Selling from a single stock pool, for example, can make the supply chain more efficient – and makes possible selling warehouse stock in-store. Of course to do this, payments need to be joined up too. And taking online orders and managing returns in-store also relies on accurate stock files – not the case for most retailers. According to our research, only 45% of retailers already have a cross-channel order management system – essential for managing stock, taking advantage of economies of scale and providing a click-and collect service.
The future of multichannel
Those leading the pack are integrating their systems and up-skilling their staff to ensure they add value whenever they speak to customers. By providing mobile devices, for example, store assistants can have as much information at their fingertips as the customer. And by combining this with CRM information they can ensure each customer gets a great experience in-store and across all channels. Looking ahead, it may be that retailers operate with just one all-encompassing platform, with different “presentation layers” configured for instore or online, customer-facing use.
Multichannel retail is growing up fast.
Jason Shorrock is business development director at BT Expedite
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