Crossing the channel: The benefits of multichannel retailing

We find out exactly what multichannel retailing is, how it can benefit tech retailers and whether indies should consider it
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Our recent survey revealed that over a quarter of the retailers and resellers we spoke to did not have a website or had only just started one.

A surprisingly large amount when you consider that out of those who did have a website, 64 per cent reported that online business had either increased or stayed consistent over the past 12 months.

So why are a surprising number of independent retailers still avoiding multichannel retailing?

What is ‘multichannel’?
Perhaps one of the reasons why some are a little hesitant to dip a toe into the world of multichannel retailing is that they simply don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.

In its very basic terms, multichannel retailing means giving a customer the choice of a variety of channels when buying a product. This includes physical and online stores, mobile apps, telephone sales, and pre/post sale services.

Multichannel retailing isn’t just something bricks and mortar stores should think about. An online retailer may want to offer their products in physical stores, while someone who sells tech through an eBay shop may wish add additional services to their company which could require a mobile app store or customer service support.

Is it for everyone?
“The advantages of multichannel retailing are so far reaching that you would expect any retailer to want to leverage their benefits,” Dan Wagner, CEO of international commerce specialist Powa Technologies, tells PCR.

“Increased sales are often referred to as one of the pre-eminent drivers for a retailer adopting a multi-channel strategy.”

Simon Russell, director of retail operations at John Lewis, explains:“We have a strong ‘bricks and clicks’ proposition and nearly two thirds of all customers are using both shops and online channels when they shop with us.

“We know that some customers like to browse online and read our ratings and reviews before coming into a store. Alternatively they might prefer to come into the store to speak with one of our shop floor partners, before going home and ordering online at a time that’s convenient for them.”

Dixons Retail’s ecommerce director, Jeremy Fennell, also agrees that customers don’t just shop in one place anymore.

“Most people in-store are looking at your website in their hand, as well as the website of everybody else at the same time. The two channels are merging faster than ever and you’ve got to move into that multichannel world today,” he says.

The first step for indies
Multichannel retailing is not just for big chains. Independents can use it to learn more about their customers’ habits and collect more data to help benefit and expand their business. Increasing the number of engagement points for the consumer to make a purchase can increase the retailer’s opportunities for making a sale.

“A vast number of independent retailers, who sell through a number of channels already, such as in-store, over the telephone or on the web, should really consider themselves to be a ‘multiple-channel’ retailer already,” explains Wagner.

“Independent retailers need to ensure that they know what channels their consumers use for different things and ensure that there is some degree of integration between the channels.

“The days of having shops and online as two separate entities is now coming to an end. Merging these together and offering a more holistic multichannel approach is the order of the day.”

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