IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 20 Jun 2011

Multichannel… the new internal battle?

Having multiple purchasing channels offers advantage to retailers through the opportunity to reach shoppers in various ways, consequently increasing sales whether customers live miles away from a shopping centre, or are technology-phobic. In many cases the result is that the different channels within the same company are now in competition.

Whilst the different channels interrelate, the staff managing them may feel that they are left fighting against each other for the same brand customer. In many cases these channels will have developed separately, because they will have been implemented at different times and grown at differing speeds.

At present, the managers of the website, the catalogue and the stores may be independent of each other and you have to put yourself in their position: If you were a store manager, targeted on the sales achieved, how much time would you or your staff dedicate to helping a customer make a purchase in your store that was recorded against a central location? Equally, how receptive would you be to a customer who is looking to return an item (or items) to your store for a refund that they purchased online, if this would negatively impact upon your sales targets and bottom line?

The aim of multichannel retailing is to extend the reach of retailers to enable customers to purchase via their preferred method regardless of location or time of day, whether it be through single or multiple channels, whilst maintaining consistency. The customers’ experience should be positive and the service level provided must be replicated regardless of the channel used.

The question is how many retailers actually achieve this and how many can claim that they have harmonised their business practices across their channels so that the process is seamless? The ideal situation that retailers must strive for is one where the different transacting channels complement and grow each other for the benefit of the whole company.

This not only involves the integration of various IT systems to unite the different retail channels and gain the single view of the customer; but also a shift in mindset and culture. Staff must pull together and realise that having multiple channels such as an impressive web store and transactional social media sites is not a vanity exercise; their purpose is to increase the turnover and profitability of the business, which will have a positive impact for employees.

The key is to understand your customer base, their requirements and shopping habits to provide them with a solution or offering which satisfies their needs, and understand that the different purchasing routes are there to complement each other and grow the overall value of the business, rather than it being an internal competition between different channels. All of these points need considering and having a company wide vision for selling and providing customer service is critical if the financial and time investments made in multi-channelling are to be realised.

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