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Why multichannel retail is an outdated concept

Maria Morais is managing consultant at digital agency Neoworks.



The online fashion market is expected to grow 86% between 2011 and 2016 to reach £9.4bn in the UK, according to Mintel, but to date more than a quarter of consumers in the UK (27%) have still never purchased clothing online. There is much potential for further growth in this area - and technology will be a determining factor in that growth.

The concept of multichannel commerce is outdated. A channel focus assumes that the company owns the customer experience when, in a truly seamless environment, it is the customer who owns the experience. Using technology - for example, by introducing same-day delivery or tablets for in-store browsing - enables retailers to innovate and contributes to a behavioural change in the way customers shop.

New ways to drive customers into stores and improve the in-store experience through online is high on the agenda for most fashion retailers. Pure players such as Amazon are extending their presence offline with services like click-and-collect or pop-up shops, while traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers such as Debenhams are looking at new ways to increase their stock online, with services like endless aisle, where stock available in-store can be sold online.

Understanding the customer journey - together with a good comprehension of how data systems can be integrated - is key, because improvements in one channel will have an impact on the others. Most brands are looking for ways to decrease costs and make everything run quicker for the customer; yet others, particularly in the luxury segment, are trying to bring the ‘wow factor’ to their customers and make the in-store experience unique. It is important to compete by differentiating your offer, not just on price.

If they are to compete in a digital world, retailers must stop thinking in channels - and working in silos - and have more joined-up discussions about customer behaviour and what the customer wants.

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