What is multi-channel retailing, or Omni channel retailing as it is sometimes called?
It is a marketing strategy that offers a choice of ways for the consumer to interact with, and purchase from a company, creating a seamless experience, integrating all available technologies.
They may include the retail store itself, a website, shopping on a mobile, using a mobile app, a now traditional call centre, mail order, TV, comparison shopping site or any other method of interacting with consumers.
The retailer must send a clear consistent message to consumers across all channels and offer a joined up service. If the consumer has to enter the same information into each channel, then that will alienate them.
What is a touchpoint?
A Touchpoint is any encounter between consumers and a business where information is exchanged, service provided, or transactions handled.
Each engagement or touch point should add value to the consumer
The Consumers “Journey”
To better understand this, let’s look at the journey a contemporary consumer may make before transacting a purchase, using multi-channel retailing.
The consumer may be just browsing, perhaps with the idea of buying some new clothes, or seasonal gifts for family. Or they may be actively seeking a specific product such as a new vacuum cleaner or washing machine to replace one that has failed, a specific “distress purchase “.
In either event they are looking for ideas either by searching on line, on laptop, PC or mobile, or instore. They will come up with a shortlist of retailers and brands.
They may read reviews or comments on social media that may influence them .
They begin to look at technical specification, sizing, availability, and delivery and compare prices for the product and the associated services such as delivery.
The consumer decides on the product, where and how to buy it, how they will pay for it and how it is to be delivered.
Using the product
The consumer uses the product and forms opinions about its suitability, durability, and value for money. They may write a product review, good or bad, or may have cause to complain to the retailer about the product. They may post a review on social media, particularly if they are not happy with the product and the retailer does not respond appropriately. In this way they can become influencers of others who are considering a purchase.
The consumer will make a decision, based on many of the touchpoints above, whether to use the retailer or brand for future purchases.
Follow up contact by the retailer
Some retailers proactively invite consumers to repurchase, for example car dealers regularly hold Invitation only parties to showcase new model launches. Many retailers follow up with a discount offer, to encourage consumers to place a repeat purchase.
Benefits of multi-channel retailing
The primary reason for a retailer to adopt this strategy is to drive sales, margin and profit .By offering convenience and a variety of touch points for the consumer to make a purchase, they are likely to achieve this objective.
The retailer differentiates themselves in a crowded market, and will be perceived as contemporary and responsive to new technology, keen to offer the consumer the best experience that technology offers.
Consumers value choice and convenience, and this means that price becomes less of a consideration , allowing the retailer to make a little more margin as they don’t have to compete just on price.
Opportunities to collect data, such as email address or shopping preferences. These can be captured once and used across all channels
Better productivity can be achieved both for retailer’s staff and for the consumer. Staff are not tied up answering questions that the consumer can get answers to online, and the consumer does not have to wait for a staff member to provide information, or wait in a queue to be served.
Omni channel shopping will become a norm in retail, shaping its future, and will become a customer expectation. An important differentiator will be how retailers use the data and the insights they will get into customers stopping habits and lifestyles.