Effective retailing requires paying close attention to consumer trends and making strategic adjustments. In recent years, leaders of the retail industry have focused on making it easy for shoppers to browse for products in one platform and completing their purchases in another platform; this strategy is often referred to as multichannel or omni-channel, and it is poised to become the new standard of retail operations.
Multichannel retail is hardly a new concept; an American pioneer in this regard was Sears Roebuck and Company, a legendary department store chain that has recently fallen into hard times. In the 19th century, Sears mastered the concept of mail-order shopping, which allowed customers to browse a catalog and choose between home delivery or pick-up at a local store. These days, retailing giants such as Wal-Mart offer shopper multiple browsing, purchasing, delivery, and pick-up options; the idea extends beyond convenience since it also gives companies opportunities to maximize their marketing and advertising efforts.
Choosing the Right Multichannel Strategy in 2018
Retail industry analysts are seeing more brands adopting omnichannel retail tactics to stay relevant in the e-commerce world. Quite a few online retail shops have stopped operating their websites to focus exclusively on selling their products on Amazon; while this is a platform that should not be ignored, analysts believe that sticking solely to a single marketplace is not a good idea.
The right omni-channel approach calls for establishing a presence not just on Amazon but also on eBay, Facebook, AliExpress, and even offline in a brick-and-mortar store if possible. All the same, e-commerce entrepreneurs should not ignore mobile apps and their own websites.
Paying Attention to Customer Experience
Although the branding effort should be uniform across all channels, this will not be the case with regard to customer experience, which should be realistically tailored to the various devices and platforms.
To get an idea of how the customer experience should be crafted across retail channels, business owners can learn from video game developers. A successful franchise such as Tomb Raider, for example, cannot port the PlayStation 4 version of the game to Android smartphones, which explains the release of the Lara Croft GO and Relic Runner mobile titles in 2015; the branding and style is the same, but the gameplay is different.
An example of adequate omni-channel retail experience would be a furniture store that sells from a physical showroom but also develops a mobile app with virtual video tours of its products.
Multichannel Marketing is Key
Perhaps the most important aspect of omni-channel retail is the opportunity it presents for cross-platform marketing. A neighborhood pizzeria that offers local delivery, for example, can showcase coupons with different offers and discounts on each of its platforms. If the goal is to generate more orders from the website, thereby cutting down on telephone operations, the coupons offering greater value should be placed on this channel.
One major aspect of multichannel marketing is to remind shoppers that they have more than one purchasing option. All channels should make reference to the other platforms, and unified shopping carts should be installed whenever possible. Walmart, for example, offers the option of placing an order online and letting shoppers pay with cash at their brick-and-mortar stores if they wish to do so, but they also offer incentives for settling the transaction online.
In the end, omni-channel retail and marketing clearly indicate the direction that companies in this sector should take in the near future. The goal should always be to extend the reach of branding efforts so that shoppers feel that they can always get the products they need through various means. Companies that do not adopt multichannel strategies risk falling behind the competitive curve, and this applies to both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business realms. Shoppers move across social, local and mobile channels; therefore, it only makes sense for retailers to establish a presence on these channels.