IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 16 Jan 2012

Mary and Multichannel

AlanWith 32 million people (that’s 66% of all adults) in the UK saying that they have purchased goods or services online during 2011 according to the Office of National Statistics, the opportunities for retailers are obvious. What is equally clear is a need for IT solutions that encompass and embrace true multichannel capability whilst providing an omni-channel experience for the customer.

Mary Portas highlighted in her recent review that retailers need to focus on the high street and require the support and encouragement of the government through improved legislation. This will mean that they not only stay in business but also together rejuvenate the environment, get people spending and put the county’s economy back on track. There is a genuine need here and hopefully, with the involvement of the interested parties and a coordinated set of actions, improvements will be seen and progress made.

Mary did not touch upon the other retail channels and the impact that these are having in the sector and upon the economy as a whole within her 28 recommendations. When you consider the opening statistic of this blog and recognise that the UK online economy is now leading the World – The Boston Consulting Group reported that the UK exports £2.80 for every £1 imported via the internet – you realise how important it is to make the right investments in technology that underpins and promotes all channels equally well. Certain retailers such as Aurora Fashions have already capitalised upon this opportunity by launching dedicated overseas websites and ship from store functionality.

There is a lot of talk within the retail industry about multichannel systems, but in truth most solutions available today were designed for and predominantly stay modelled for the high street. If you consider the high street the core channel for the solution then you begin to realise how concession, overseas, web, catalogue and increasingly mobile are accommodated by bespoke development. This relies upon interfacing and in some instances manual intervention in order for them to fulfil the need that the retailer has for the transition and sharing of valuable business data.

Buying, replenishment and pre and in season merchandising all need to be considered as cross channel activities. Previously, most of the goods arriving at the retail warehouse were allocated to high street shops, with a proportion held back for replenishment once items had been sold in store. Now sales across all channels must be fulfilled by a single stock pool, and any IT systems need to reflect this.

Disregarding channels other than the high street is misguided when you consider that retailers with a multichannel strategy witnessed on average 10% more monthly growth than retailers with only one channel according to an IMRG study. There are always exceptions to this rule, as anybody who has witnessed the phenomenal growth of pureplay etailers such as ASOS can testify. Nevertheless, in general the rule appears to be that if your systems are not inherently multichannel, you will be missing out on potential sales and therefore profit.

Is your focus currently on high street stores, or multiple selling channels? Post your comments below or email

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