There’s no denying it: the emergence of new selling channels has changed the face of retail. Online, mobile and now social media channels—including Facebook, Amazon.com, Dealfind, Groupon and LivingSocial—will not simply fade into the background. Rather, they’ll continue to evolve at a faster pace than has ever been seen before. E-commerce made it easy for consumers to browse their favorite retailer’s websites 24/7 from the comfort of their own homes. Now, they can make purchasing decisions and read product reviews even faster with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and online retail apps, thus fueling the m-commerce fire. One thing is for certain, shoppers are getting more sophisticated as new selling channels continue to crop up, and retailers must manage to keep pace.
Growing importance of multi-channel consumers
Most retailers understand the importance of having a multi-channel presence, and plenty of research points to this fact. According to a recent Retail Systems Research report1, 89 percent of retailers realize that their multi-channel customers are their most lucrative ones. Not surprisingly, this same study indicates that more and more retailers are starting to make the connection between their online presence and their physical stores. They understand that the customer’s ability to review and make a selection online can drive up business in brick-and-mortar stores.
As it relates to the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S., a Google survey of American consumers2 who routinely use their smartphones is astonishing. It found that mobile shopping grew more than 200 percent from Black Friday 2009 to the same day in 2010. Google’s research, which was published in Internet Retailer magazine, showed that 59 percent of smartphone owners used their devices for holiday shopping last year. Of those, 80 percent used their mobile devices to research products and then headed into the store to buy them. And, 24.2 percent of all consumers who regularly leverage smartphones bought something through an m-commerce site or mobile application last year.
Channel proliferation offers benefits to shoppers and retailers
As the research above shows, today’s shoppers won’t simply settle for what their local retailers are offering. Instead, they scour all selling channels to find exactly what they want and for the price they’re willing to pay. The current economic climate is upping the ante: shoppers want to know they’re getting the best possible deal, using social media and online reviews to validate their decisions. What’s perceived to be the “best deal” may be different from person to person—some value the ability to pick up products in the store, some want free shipping while others need to know they can return an online purchase at a store location near them.
While having to manage additional selling channels adds a layer of complexity to the business, there is a bonus: retailers are realizing that the costs associated with growing their customer base through online channels such as social media, m-commerce and e-commerce is significantly less than the resources required to open new physical stores.
Strategies to help retailers integrate multi-channel plans
Simply having a presence across online, social, mobile, catalogue and brick-and-mortar channels is not enough. The next major initiative retailers need to tackle is ensuring they go to market with an integrated multi-channel retail planning approach. The key word is “integration,” and that means building well-planned links across selling channels to increase brand presence, grow customer loyalty and maximize sales.
As many companies can attest to, providing a seamless, multi-channel shopping experience is easier said than done. JustEnough Software, a provider of demand management solutions for retailers, distributors and brand owners worldwide, offers the following tips to help retailers assimilate their multi-channel retail planning strategies: