Today’s Multichannel Consumer

by Kate Enright

www.vonbismark.com

Today there are an increasing number of channels for consumers to complete purchases. Some take advantage of these and some don’t, but which type consumers make a more significant value increase for the retailer? First of all, let’s take a look at what’s out there. Currently, we have the traditional “brick-and-mortar” high street stores, the old-school brochure ordering systems, ecommerce sites, social media platform integration, in-store online installations, and mobile commerce is exploding with mobile sites and apps becoming increasingly popular for smart shoppers. So what most retailers want to know is; is it worth their while investing in multiple channels? And if they do, will it increase sales and improve loyalty?

Agos’s Multichannel Campaign was a triumph of true multichannel

Accounted for 43% of revenue in 2009

The majority of retailers running high-street stores in the clothing industry currently operate an online store, or at least a catalogue site, but are they operating as true multichannel retailers? Or do they have 2 very separate channels operating under the same name? In order for it to be true multichannel, there must be real cohesion between the channels to make the most from the investment. Some degree of cross channel integration in management, information and service is vital, i.e. a consistent and coordinated branding method and ethos across all channels. You have to know your customer base, know what they like about shopping in your store and what their interests are outside of shopping with you. PWC released a report on multichannel consumerism at the end of 2011, they stated, “Those retailers getting it right are doing so in a variety of different ways, but one factor unites them: a deep understanding of their customers.”

PWC’s graph of the customer purchase journey

Online shopping has indeed changed the buying patterns of consumers greatly over the last 5-10 years. The Internet has empowered the consumer, making the shift from the retailer controlled days of the past. During the decision-making process leading to the purchase for example, the consumer now has infinite tools at their disposal to find reviews, research prices, quality, recommendations, and the different retailers stocking the desired items. At the point of sale consumers now have a number of payment-type options, and throughout the product ownership period, including delivery, maintenance, and return, things are now completely in the customers favour. Although consumers generally are not attached to any single channel, retailers are a lot of the time.  They need to make sure they are listening to customer needs in order to tailor the respective channels to fit them. If customers are more likely to buy a particular product offering online, retailers need to ensure they have their delivery and returns systems set up to deal with demand and that they have the channel there in the first place.

A customer who thinks about buying jeans, for example, may not want to go in-store in order to try them on (let’s face it….a guy). That customer can go online at home and order the jeans from your site and have them delivered. Another customer, however, might be in the store trying jeans and decide they want them in a different colour. In that case, they can use an in-store installation to find the jeans in the preferred colour, order them and have them delivered to their home. Another customer still can use their smartphone to take a picture of the pants, send it to a friend and discuss whether to purchase them or not. Having a variety of engagement points gives you as a retailer more tools to make a sale. Catering for the needs of different character types will ensure you don’t miss out. One thing to ensure you do is make sure it is a seamless operation. Stores that create a seamless experience integrating all different forms of technology can gain significant customer loyalty. If you do this your brand will be perceived as forward-thinking and responsive to customer’s needs, and the kind of shoppers who are more likely to act in multiple channels are the kind that will appreciate this and you will keep them coming back.

Studies have shown that multichannel shoppers are more valuable because they are more likely to respond to cross-selling and up-selling. Across these studies it has been shown time and again that cross-channel consumers buy substantially more than single channel shoppers. Deloitte found in a survey they compiled at the end of 2010, that multichannel shoppers spent 82% more than their counterparts! Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte commented on their findings at the time, “The commercial imperative for retailers to tackle multi-channel and the incentive for getting it right is clear. The multi-channel consumer is particularly well informed about the products they buy and this greater confidence is resulting in a higher value and a higher volume of purchases. The digital revolution in retail is at a tipping point with consumers expecting to shop through any channel and receive consistent service.” Geddes said, “There are already examples of UK retailers doing well in multichannel but the overriding feeling is that there are many more opportunities to grow. This is particularly the case for those retailers able to respond quickly to customers changing buying habits between channels, for example, the recent growth of clothing online.”

Through multichannel retail, shoppers that are more frequently exposed to brands, whether in a physical store, via email, phone or in an online store are more likely to be exposed to the retailers offering There is also a psychological effect of reinforcement when a brand, message, or offer that is seen on one channel is repeated on other channels and viewed by the consumer. As long as the branding, products, strategy and ethos are spread across all channels, then a true feeling of integration is obvious to consumers. A study conducted by Shop.org, found that Cross-Channel shoppers spent 50% more – and visit stores 70% more frequently than the average shopper. Time Magazine also reported that the average single channel shopper spent $591, the multi-channel shopper spent $995. This translates into additional sales for you, both online and off.

However, the one downside (from the retailers’ standpoint) is that multichannel consumers do – according to the studies – defect more easily when price competition arises. This makes sense, thinking about it logically, searching for lower prices is one of the biggest reasons consumers research purchases on multiple channels in the first place. So with the good comes the bad! How to prevent them defecting has no easy solution. It simply has to be a mix of good branding, top quality marketing, and competitive prices, but most of all a seamless multichannel approach that will ensure that you are providing ease of purchase by a number of methods, both in store and online.

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