Swan Retail and Iconography Ltd outline the do’s and don’ts of multi channel retail.
In essence when you distil it down, the whole subject of multichannel is one of common sense and good practical retailing. It’s about making life easy and consistent for your customers whether they are in your store or ‘on ‘your store – via their tablet, smartphone, laptop or TV.
Run both your online and instore businesses through the same system – using a single point of administration for all of your business activity gives you a single view of your customer, your stock and your sales. This will save you time and lower your administration costs.
Offer multi-channel customer services – such as click / reserve online and collect instore. Customers now expect flexibility in how they shop and to be able to fit it around their busy lives. They want to be able to order online while on a break from work and then come into store to collect their purchase at a time which suits them instead of waiting in for the postman on their day off.
Have a responsive website - It is so important to understand that customers in 2016 will access your site multiple times via different devices and that a fully responsive website is the best tool for this job. Smartphones tend to be used for early stage researching – they are easy and convenient devices to use whilst out and about, but customers tend to switch to a tablet or full desktop PC once further research is required.
List dimensions and specifications, product care instructions, warranty information and customer reviews online – For large ticket items, as the search progresses the customer begins to look for specifics – for example a two seater sofa, leather rather than fabric, in a certain style and within a set price range. If you have all of this information listed online then you are more likely to not only show up in search results driving people to your website, but have them engage with your company beyond an initial online visit.
Allocate a person instore who is responsible for handling both phone and email enquiries which come as a result of a website visit – you don’t want people contacting your business only to get an “I don’t know” response from your staff. Customers also expect a timely response so make sure that there is a member of staff who is responsible for responding to these enquiries and is armed with the necessary knowledge
For small, carry away items, ensure your stock levels displayed online correspond with those instore – you do not want to disappoint customers who make the visit to store to pick up a specific item having seen it listed on your website, only for it to not be available after all.
Have different products listed online to those stocked instore – for large, special order products, often a customer will follow up initial online research with a store visit to see the item in person before making the final buying decision. You don’t want them turning up instore only to be told that they can’t see the product they’re interested in as it’s only stocked online. If a product is only stocked online, make sure this is clearly stated in the description to avoid them making an unnecessary visit to store.
Have different pricing and promotions online and instore – your customers not only expect to be offered the same products regardless of which channel they interact with you through, but they also expect to be offered the same pricing and promotional offers across the board.
Treat your online and instore channels as being completely separate from each other - this means enabling customers to see and track their orders (web, phone or store) via their login to your website. It also means ensuring they can return an online purchase to your store and that you’ll be able to manage the return or refund.
Let your staff view your website as a threat - a professional, well maintained and commercially geared ecommerce website should drive footfall to the store and inbound phone sales enquires. This will allow your instore staff to still gain their commission from a sale which started out online and potentially increase the value of the sale through add-ons or complimentary items.
We have briefly looked at how your store and website should combine to compliment each other and help you appeal to the multichannel customer. It is important that you have the systems and processes in place to enable you to run your retail operations online and in the real world effectively and ensure a joined up, single view of your products, inventory, promotions, customer and their orders whether their orders originate online, via the phone, in-store or indeed a combination of these.
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