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Introduction to Multi-Channel Retail

Thus Retailers can no longer restrict themselves to the traditional brick-and-mortar but be open to idea of making their presence felt in reaching to their customer through various channels. These could be

Using one or more of these channels along with the brick-and-mortar is known as multi-channel retail.

  • Introduction - The brick-and-mortar retail store allows direct face-to-face interaction with the customer. The overall experience of the customer interaction depends upon the availability of SKU, ambience of the store, layout of the store and most of all the personal skills of the employee interacting with the customer. The discerning customer of today is looking for more than just saving time and cost. The customer now wants more choice and knowledge of product which is easy to understand before taking a decision to buy.  Technology has proved to be a great leveler with ecommerce and affordable smart phones and tablets have made it possible for the customer to be more knowledgeable and compare products before taking a decision within the comforts of their homes or office.
    • Own Ecommerce Portal which are compatible with desktop, laptop, tablet and smart-phones
    • Third party market place and ecommerce portals like EBay, Amazon, Flipchart, Snap deal and their like
    • Mobile Apps
    • In-Store Kiosks
    • Digital Signage
    • Call Centers
    • Social media
    • Direct Mailing, Email Marketing and SMS
  • Factors to Consider - While considering multi-channel retail it is important we consider various factors associated with it. In addition we should also consider the customers overall experience in converting sales and ensuring a loyal customer.
    • Usability - The overall navigation and use of the channel should be customer friendly. For example - Use of mobile responsive site along with navigation, search, layout, proper use fonts and colour make the difference in ensuring the customer experience.  Use of Short URL, QR code and Bar Code help in making the site more accessible. When physical devices such as Kiosks and Tablets are used it is important that they are responsive, rugged and protected from tampering.  Tablet POS can be effectively used for queue bursting and also enable faster check out for the customer.
    • Relevant Content – The content should be relevant and should have a fresh look to gain the attention of the customer. The information should be correct, regularly updated and free from errors.
    • Security and Data Integrity – The security of customer data including credit card information, integrity of business transaction data should be ensured and visible. The customer should have the confidence while sharing information. Use of secure Wi-Fi, SSL, data encryption, monitoring of logs, backup of data and data access control provides the necessary confidence in ensuring this.
    • Ease of Management – The system should be easy to management.  It should be possible to manage the content, product information, pricing at ease. This includes updates on multi-devices at multiple locations should be properly synchronized. Alerts and logs should be made available in event of any failure.
    • Integration of different channel - It is important to integrate the multiple channels consistent with the overall organization policy.  There should not be any conflict in communication of information such as product information, pricing, return policy, availability of stock. Any discrimination between channels should be highlighted upfront for eg. Special discount offered to customer purchasing on the customer as compared to customer shopping at the store should be known in advance to avoid any conflict.  Further the customer should be able to interact between the channels seamlessly and should be identified as the same person across the channel by accumulation and redemption of loyalty points, tracking the purchases and history at a single point. This would reduce the cost of interaction and enhance the overall experience of the customer.
    • Proper Review - Planned reviews should be done and improvement been carry forward to ensure relevance of the channels. Each channel should be reviewed independently along with an integrity approach to ensure it meets the organization overall business objective.

  • Benefits of Multi-Channel  - The multi-channel can help to bring in tangible and intangible benefits to the Retailer in the form of
    • Increasing Up-selling and Affinity products sales.
    • Reduce time with the customers thus freeing costly resources.
    • Reduce time taken for check-outs.
    • Integration of business data from all channels helps in ensuring proper visibility on performance of the channel to take prompt business decisions.
    • An Integrated multi-channel allows an omni-channel experience to customer where a product can be reviewed on the web and the physical delivery can be taken at the store or vice versa.
    • Increase in reach by allowing customer to purchase over the web and deliver it at the doorstep and ensuring the same customer service.
    • Data Collection to understand the customers taste and push relevant products and offers to the customers that help increases the sales.
    • Scaling of operation and management of peak foot falls at the store by providing incentive and free home delivery to the customer to use alternate channels.
    • Manage inventory better as the inventory can be maintained away from the premium store location.
    • Increase customer loyalty by providing easy to manage loyalty programs, referral programs and better delivery management.
  • Conclusion – Multi-Channel retail, if implemented properly would bring in required benefits. This involves ensuring proper investment to the respective channels in the overall marketing plan of the organization and involving various stakeholders in making things happens which includes the employees, customers and vendors.