Integrated Multichannel Retail

A growing interest for many retailers is a closer integration between online and in-store purchases and how this relationship is managed. The convergence of multichannel customer experience can clearly be seen with click and collect, a good example of how multichannel selling can deliver a unified experience both online and in-store.  An increasing number of eCommerce customers prefer the certainty that a purchase will be waiting for them rather than the prospect of missing a home delivery at a later date. When arriving to collect, there are experts who can enhance their online purchase with a personalised in-store experience, which is easy for the customer and allows retailers to capitalise on the footfall.

Over the last few years multichannel selling has offered customers a wider range of services and products.  I asked Richard Cotter, CEO of Snow and Rock if shoppers were now more comfortable to buy big ticket items online,  “I think that it’s less of a case of customers being more comfortable buying big ticket items online and more a case of customers using all channels to make their purchase decision, including both in-store and online as an integral part of research and testing, and then completing the actual purchase transaction through the channel which is easiest for them. I am certain, backed up by our research, that our consumers don’t see them as different channels or as online/offline, they use the convenience that retailers now have the technology to offer”.

The evolving nature of multichannel selling requires scalable technology that can meet customer expectations by integrating into systems and processes. Ideally this is made possible by having a single source of data in areas like inventory, order management, fulfillment, marketing and be accessible across the organisation.  In some cases with existing systems creating a single data source can be difficult, but with the right data model in place it is possible to pull information from multiple databases to provide a single view.

A multichannel network that integrates into shipping and fulfillment, warehouse and distribution, CMS systems and POS will also produce valuable data for a business intelligence platform from which analytics can be taken. This level of reporting will go deeper to reveal customer insights and help improve operations, including supply chain, marketing and technology.

We are still very much in the infancy stage of eCommerce, though this particular channel is the fastest growing and is influencing the entire retail landscape. As advanced as these fast moving changes may seem now, there will be further mainstream innovations in the near future to adapt to.  The use of mobile devices in stores by customers and retailers are increasing and new ideas about how in-store WiFi could be implemented are currently being tested.  It’s not entirely impossible that one day I’ll be writing an article about ‘how to integrate and manage your own fleet of drones’, but the here and now of integrated multichannel retail is that the omnichannel vision has finally come of age.

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