Multi-Channel Retailing: An Introduction Interview
June 13, 2012
Jonathan Cook, Head of New Media at Valtech was interviewed for the Multi-Channel Retailing Guide by the Retail Customer Experience.
Given the explosion in interest within the industry about Facebook as a retail channel, Valtech has injected our experience of building successful Facebook stores and innovating within the social commerce field into our responses.
How can a retailer get started?
Omni-Channel Retailing is the marketing of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalogue and so on.
Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialised supply chain strategy software. To use all channels simultaneously, and retailers using an omni-channel approach will track customers across all channels, not just one or two.
Never be afraid to start small. Many companies have expensive grand plans, which take a long time to implement and they can still flop. Experiment with new channels, start small, see what works and what doesn’t.
Above all, listen to your customers and plan to adapt to what they want. Think about how to meet customer needs and what you want to get out of them in each channel, and how the different channels can support each other.
What are pitfalls to be aware of?
A number of companies have built shops within Facebook, yet all they have succeeded in doing is to replicate their traditional eCommerce store. In order to be successful, companies need to ensure that their retail offerings make sense in a social channel.
In order to generate social leverage and “word of mouth at scale” Facebook applications need to be “social by design” and not just replicas of what works in the traditional eCommerce channel.
How can a retailer choose what channels are important? Are all channels necessary?
The key is to manage multiple channels efficiently
Each channel has different characteristics, and, the way in which channels are blended together should be dependent on what is being sold. Whilst I’m never going to buy a car from a Facebook retailer, I might be happy to book my annual service and take advantage of an upsell offer to invite four of my friends to join me on an off-road driving day or sports car test.
Whereas, I’d much rather plan and book cinema tickets with my friends together directly within Facebook, than spend time consulting them individually by phone before booking on-line and then collecting money off them later.
What type of stores benefit most from the omni-channel relationship?
Companies big and small can take advantage of multi-channel retail. The key is to manage multiple channels efficiently. Valtech’s commerce platform is shortlisted for Econsultancy’s 2012 innovation awards because it enables retailers to manage sales across multiple channels, within a single platform, without degrading the benefits which are unique to each channel whether traditional eCommerce, Facebook or mobile.
What are measures of success?
With social commerce there is a new measure that retailers need to consider. How do I increase the number of people who serendipitously stumble upon my products that would never have known about them otherwise? Retailers will need to measure their social influence as well as the interaction with and within their social network.
How can the information accessed in the store be different from the general website?
Too often businesses try and focus on the technology, but what they need to do is focus on people, how they behave and what makes their experience better. The very act of putting people at the heart of the design process makes awkward decisions about different channels melt away.
How can a mobile phone be integrated into this?
People use mobile phones for convenience. If there are use-cases that mobile phones are the best medium to serve your brand, then make use of them. Examples range from geo-location opportunities to advice within show rooms or shops in the vicinity of a user, to ease of payment or ease of product feature comparison.
What are retailers’ fears about omni-channel retailing?
Bad news travels as quickly as good news on social media platforms and retailers are desperate to avoid fast moving bad publicity. In order to combat this fear, retailers should purposefully set out to build applications which are social by design, by putting people at the heart of their concept.
Retailers should purposefully set out to build applications which are social by design.
Additionally, starting small, listening to customers and planning to adapt to what they say mitigates risk. However this is also the most efficient way to deploy services that people actually want. You can finally learn the lessons from those who have solved these issues already and use a vendor like Valtech.
What is the future of omni-channel retailing?
People are the future of multi-channel retailing. The internet is being re-built around people rather than around technological advances or content. Thanks to Apple we are already familiar with the retail benefit of intuitive design. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, we understand the convenience of shopping by mobile.
Less familiar but maybe most important, is that for the first time in humanity, social interaction and influence are measurable. We are a social species and those retailers who are able to anticipate people, will be the ones who succeed. Retail strategies need to be social by design.
Image by Nan Palmero