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The best approach for multichannel

Keely Stocker

Whether it’s called multichannel, omnichannel or just plain commerce, over the past 12 months retailers have been looking at their operation across channels and how best to integrate each one to form a seamless shopping experience.

Whether it’s called multichannel, omnichannel or just plain commerce, over the past 12 months retailers have been looking at their operation across channels and how best to integrate each one to form a seamless shopping experience. This, the first of our multichannel reports, looks at some of the issues retailers need to consider when implementing a multichannel strategy as well as investigating the technologies behind the business and how customers are consuming them.

The multichannel challenges are plentiful, covering all aspects of the business and forcing retailers to confront their entire technical operation. Points of sale, logistics and end results must all be taken into account. Customers are becoming used to shopping on the go, at a time that is convenient for them and retailers offering a range of delivery and collection options from click-and-collect to Collect+ are seeing the impact this has on conversion.

Staff training must also be taken into account, especially when new tools are brought in-store such as iPads and kiosks to ensure staff as well as customers are knowledgeable on the retailer’s full multichannel offering. Retailers cannot take the risk of the customer knowing more than its staff.

Mobile has also become a big talking point and the rapid rise in customers using this form of technology looks set to continue over the next few years. Drapers’ recent consumer survey indicates that the most active age group using mobiles to shop online is 25 to 34.

However, at a recent Drapers etail breakfast event, Susan Aubrey-Cound, the former new channels director at Marks & Spencer, said the most active group on mobile for the retailer is the over-45s, proving that all retailers should be considering mobile as a major sales channel.

Mobile isn’t the only technology that retailers will be looking at over the next few years. In an ever-evolving market, businesses are constantly innovating and testing new products to market. Etailer Net-A-Porter’s recent use of augmented reality and the launch of an M&S Smart TV application show how new technology can be used to extend the customer base.

Social media appears to be an ongoing dilemma for most retailers but one that is showing no signs of disappearing as new sites such as Pinterest escalate in members and views at a quickening pace. The audience is there but many retailers are still trying to decipher how to make the most of these platforms whether for increased brand awareness or sales.

With so much going on in this competitive market, we investigate some of the barriers to overcome and speak to other retailers that have already faced these challenges. One thing is for sure, customers are shopping on a multichannel level, and those leading the pack in this field are thinking in the same way but we are still only at the beginning of where this technology might lead.

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