Consumers today shop across multiple channels switching between online and offline, to research and buy products they want, when they want them.
As a result, retailers are now implementing multichannel selling strategies to keep abreast of customer expectations. However, it is important not to confuse omnichannel with multichannel because the two strategies differ and are not interchangeable.
Multichannel retail as all about developing a strategy that integrates your front-end to your back-end so retailers can accurately address contemporary market challenges, and is the most effective approach to combating global competition.
A multichannel retail strategy can, however, be difficult to execute. Retailers need to understand the many places they need to be for their consumers and numerous suppliers, integrating all aspects into their retail business. They must also create a consistent experience for each customer touchpoint because customers view every interaction with your brand as one and the same.
To succeed at multichannel retailing, businesses must do the following:
Choose the right channels
Successful multichannel retailers only sell in sales channels that make sense for their customers. While diversification helps reach a larger audience, launching on irrelevant channels can do more harm than good. Careful consideration and strategy are needed to identify what channels have the potential for long-term profitability.
Multichannel doesn’t mean blindly focusing on being everywhere and retailers should only sell on the channels where their customers are. Which can include any, all or some of the following:
- Your own website and shopping cart are an essential channel, primarily because it lets you customise and personalise the shopping experience, create educational content to solve user queries and attract new visitors.
- Social media channels are the perfect place to engage and build relationships with your audience and a great place for people to discover new products and stores. Influencers share their experiences and sponsored posts can drive traffic and potentially sales.
- Comparison shopping engines allow retailers to bid on traffic as part of a paid advertising strategy. Because price and convenience are the two most influential factors in purchasing decisions, comparison shopping engines such as Google Shopping, eBay, Amazon and PriceGrabber give fast pricing information to shoppers at their disposal.
- Marketplaces work best for buyers who already have a brand or product in mind and the intent to purchase. Marketplaces can be vertical (specific to an industry, trade or profession), horizontal (a wide range of buyers across multiple sectors) and global. Each will have varying category and assortment levels.
Your website, social media, comparison shopping engines and marketplaces target shoppers at different stages of their buyer’s journey. Having a presence on all these channels will help you achieve maximum reach. However, you should undertake one channel at a time to ensure you are targeting the right market, so you are not wasting resources and manpower.
Make customer experience your focus
Today’s consumers are smart and they like to shop with retailers who anticipate their needs and provide them with the best customer experience. No longer is it only about the lowest price or the highest quality product for them.
To be successful in multichannel retailing, customer experience should be at the forefront of your business decisions. Consumers now have complete control of their own information gathering, engagement, social interactions and buying behaviour. If you are not providing the right experience, technology makes it easy for your customers to switch to other brands that do meet their expectations.
Establish greater opportunities to engage with consumers to gain insights into how they want to purchase from you. Provide multiple purchase options and offer an easy returns policy to reduce their risk of purchase. Give them multiple ways to increase the standard of customer service, for example, phone, email, social media, chatbots and physical locations.
Employ the right system
Not at all software systems are the same, some are better equipped for multichannel retail processes than others. You want one that can handle complex multichannel capabilities like dropshipping and order fulfilment from multiple suppliers, a scalable platform that easily integrates with both current and new platforms as you grow.
Whether your multichannel operations run smoothly or not is largely dependent on selecting the right system. Solutions to integrate your front-end with back-end systems include point-to-point connectors, custom built and multichannel integration platforms.
A robust multichannel strategy requires integrating all your systems to ensure important data from your channels is automatically synced across your channels in real time.
Real-time data is crucial to delivering the best customer service experience. For example, inventory levels should update automatically across all channels immediately an item sells to prevent overselling. Real-time inventory updates are critical for peak shopping periods, holiday seasons or anytime you experience rapid sales.
From marketplace algorithms to better search results, multichannel retailing allows you to harness technology to ensure your products are found.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.