03 April 2011

The multichannel challenge

I have not written on this blog since July 2010.  It is not that I was struggling to find topics, but more a lack of time: my current interim contract with Matches Fashion and the adoption of an adorable child finally becoming a reality just took their toll on my spare time.   
In the April 1st edition of Retail Week, I read an interesting supplement with same title as this post (in the print version) that motivated me to start blogging again.  This supplement contains a lot of good comments but I will highlight a few here.
Ok, it’s a word now, so we can write “multichannel”, no longer having to write “multi-channel”.  Every one in retail is now more than just talking about it, as it must have a prominent position in every retailers strategy.
 But critically, retailers are finally understanding what multichannel really means.  It’s not just about adding one more channel to market, it is about providing integrated and seamless services to your customers.   A transaction can then involve 2 or more channels ideally at no extra costs and in a very flexible way.  
Darryl Owen, the SAP head of retail for EMEA, provides a short list of must-haves for a multichannel software solution:
·         Centralised data, including master data and transactional data.This is about full and true integration between all systems supporting the various channels.  One system must be the holder of the single truth.
·         Real-time IT infrastructure.As technology enables customers to be always connected, they will expect real-time information with all channels.   So if your tills poll once/day, here is one priority for you to change.
·         Accurate data analytics.Reporting must be consistent throughout the channels.  This means for instance that each customer or each product have the same unique identification across channels.
·         The ability to think ahead.This is absolutely key for success and competitive advantage.  Your systems and business processes must be fully flexible to associate existing channels differently or incorporate new channels no one has even thought of yet.  
I would like to comment on the “multichannel shopper” article as well:
 <<In December, Deloitte surveyed 2,000 multichannel consumers to find out about their shopping habits. Shoppers’ expectations are shifting as quickly as their behaviour. Deloitte head of multichannel Colin Jeffrey says: “What one retailer offers as a new service quickly becomes the expected. Customers will struggle to understand why others don’t have the same.”
The research showed that on average multichannel customers spent nearly twice that of their store-only peers, with multichannel customers spending an average of £130 per transaction compared with £67 for store-only transactions and £113 for internet-only customers.>>

Being a multichannel retailer is first about providing new convenience to existing customers rather than increasing sales.  However, as Deloitte’s research showed, multichannel customers tend to spend more.  So for instance, when using a click & collect in store service, a customer might purchase additional products while in store collecting the order placed online.

A key point to realise is the speed of change with multichannel customer behaviours.  Success will not be about playing the crystal ball game about what is to come, but to transform the organisation’s systems, processes and culture, so as to be as flexible as possible to adapt to any new technologies and customer behaviours while remaining competitive.


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