Business technology

Multi-channel: The new language of retailing

- October 21, 2012 2 MIN READ

I must confess that at the start of our Driving Business Online tour with PayPal my knowledge of online retailing was limited. I’m rapidly catching up, and here’s one important thing I’ve learnt about the exciting new-to-me topic of multi-channel.

Over the last couple of years I’ve spent far too much money buying unwanted things on ebay late at night and have invested hours trawling sites to save $5 on a pair of shoes. Finally I’m beginning to understand what’s going on and yes, I can see what all the fuss is about.

The terms ‘multi-channel’, or ‘omni-channel’ describe the rapidly growing phenomenon whereby shoppers increasingly use multiple combinations of websites, mobile, tablets and/or retail stores during their purchasing process.

When we were up in Coffs Harbour recently we met Mike Davey, of the Jetty Dive Centre who is doing a great job building his online business and here’s how he explained multi-channel and its importance:

“Some dive products aren’t suitable for selling online because they need to be fitted in store or because they are difficult to deliver across the country. In these situations, our customers will browse and check the product price on our website and then go in store to complete the purchase. Our online and traditional stores complement each other – we wouldn’t be able to operate one without the other.”

So as the name suggests, multi-channel effectively expands the means by which our customers can interact with us and importantly spend money with us.

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The research is in

Research undertaken by Deloitte back in 2009 shows that us consumers are creating our own unique means of shopping online and we’re doing a fair degree of online window shopping and research before heading into store to purchase.

The research concluded that multi-channel shopping will grow to more than 50 per cent of total retail sales by 2013 in the US.

But wait there’s more. The multi-channel experience is having far more impact in our daliy lives than I’m suggesting. Factor in the growing use of smartphones and tablets; the increasing presence of in-store self-service kiosks and the new solutions appearing for postage, handling and returns and you’ll see that a multi-channel strategy is fast becoming a must-have in our future business planning.

How does all this affect you?

If you’re already operating an online sales business you’ll probably have your strategy in place or at least ‘in development’. Conversely if you’re yet to commence, you’d be well advised to immerse yourself in the topic of multi-channel and explore ways to secure your spot or else risk doing the warm up for someone else’s benefit.

Take heed of the sentiment Deloitte share in the overview of their research:

“…developing a multi-channel strategy can seem daunting, particularly as money is currently tight. This means initiatives are often small-scale and under-funded, resulting in more questions than answers – customers’ interest is excited then disappointed…’

And we don’t want our hard-sought customers to be disappointed do we?