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Multichannel report: When assessing your tech infrastructure, think of your customer

While the majority of retailers now offer multiple channels from which customers can buy product, many are going back to basics and looking at their technical infrastructure to provide a seamless cross-channel experience.

According to Ivis Group, the number of retailers offering a click-and-collect service is up 44% from last year, as is the number of retailers offering interactive screens in store. Mobile initiatives are also being integrated into stores’ plans in an attempt to combat the challenge of ‘showrooming’.

QR codes were once thought of as a passing fad but retailers now want to use them in store to give customers more immediate product information.

Online fraud is one of the biggest challenges retailers face and with 3p in every £100 spent via credit cards fraudulent, it’s something retailers must address.

The Drapers Supply Chain Report outlines challenges to retailers, with 43% of those surveyed stating the biggest hurdle was quality control. This was followed by 39% who cited cost as the biggest factor, especially with many retailers offering multiple channels and international propositions.

In such a fast-paced sector, it is no wonder retailers are debating where to start and on which channel. But as Asos director James Hart stated recently: “It’s about getting a seamless infrastructure and always, always thinking about the customer first.”

Read more from the Multichannel report

  • Roger Morris, Head of Core Network Parcels

Roger Morris

Roger Morris

Multichannel retailing is fast moving and continually changing, with customers and businesses using a variety of online devices such as tablets and smartphones to shop and market their business - a big change in the way they previously interacted. However, in many respects the challenges and opportunities for building profitable repeat business are consistent year on year. At Royal Mail, we annually research the needs of online shoppers and know that delivery is and should be a major element of your customer experience - and ultimately your overall brand experience. Getting the delivery of your customers’ orders wrong can have a major impact. Offering a range of delivery and returns options that meet your customers’ needs and using a delivery provider that your customers trust are crucial in ensuring they keep coming back.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The collision of the web and the real-world retail environments, caused by the disruptive arrival of mobile and connected screens, throws up lots of questions and challenges. The retail challenge is not dissimilar to that being faced by many traditional industries where rapid consumer adoption of connected technology is threatening business models that have remained fairly unchanged for centuries. Publishing and entertainment also spring to mind.

    Of course, e-commerce is already a well established channel in the UK, but surely the drive now for many retailers is to start to fully integrate their web channels across their estate and create joined-up cross-channel customer journeys. I'm talking about the move from a multi to omni-channel business model.

    Omni-channel retail doesn't necessarily begin and end with the web. For many multi-channel businesses, however, the web is the engine of growth – and mobile web in particular is seen as the most appropriate channel around which to pivot an omni-channel offering.

    What this often means is that the drive for omni-channel is led by IT and the discussions and approaches I have witnessed around omni-channel seem to focus on commercial opportunities and logistical and technical challenges. E.g. More range, more routes to sell, quicker fulfillment and mobilising the website and/or driving it in-store.

    While IT and commercial teams work through the implications and opportunities from a platform and process point of view (and the board sits back with another box ticked) - from a user point of view there remains 'One Brand' and a clear and immediate need to maintain consistency of experience.

    Users don't differentiate between channels in the way that a business does. To them the store, the app and website all belong to the same brand, and they naturally expect to have a consistent experience across the whole estate. Some of that can be data driven; a single customer view; being recognised across platforms, and so on. But the softer side of experience – how it feels to interact, and how the brand looks across channels is currently taking a back seat while the bright lights of technology take centre stage.

    I've seen it all before, new technology blinds us with its opportunity while user experience, design and brand are put on hold. Witness the early days of mobile, with its redundant apps and unusable mobile sites.

    The situation with omni-channel is exacerbated because each channel in the mix inherently has a different usage context and paradigm, a distinct user and business requirement and often a different business owner. Perfectly aligning brand and design across these competing priorities is not always possible from the get-go, but must be an ambition if a truly omni-channel customer facing experience is the end goal.

    That's why I agree that putting the customer first is key, and that experience is what matters the most, whatever the channel. Technology is just a tool, experience must come first. With that in mind, perhaps the title of this piece should read 'When assessing your customer, consider your tech infrastructure'?

    After all what is more important, the customer or technology?

    Simon Liss

    Head of Connected Device Innovation & Integration

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