Multichannel retailing is defined as the use of a variety of channels, such as in-store, online and mobile/tablet, in a customer’s shopping experience including research before a purchase.

To thrive in the modern retailing environment you need to understand that multichannel is the only way for your business to stay relevant to the modern consumer. With the ever present Smartphone in hand, consumers have become used to sourcing information and making purchases on-the-go. Below is a few hints and tips on how you can become a true multichannel retailer.

  1. Understand the jargon. If needs be make a note of all of the relevant terms explained in a way you understand e.g. multichannel in its simplest form is selling both from a physical store and through a website.
  2. Appreciate that to be an effective multichannel retailer, your in-store and online business systems CAN’T be separate from each other otherwise you spend too much time and effort duplicating information which increases the potential for mistakes to be made.
  3. Find an in-store retail management system which has a strong track record of integrating to ecommerce platforms and ask for examples of where they’ve done this.
  4. Find an ecommerce company who not only provide a platform which integrates to your in-store system of choice but who will also produce a modern, easy to use website which is set up to score well with Google. There’s no point spending money on a fantastic website if it doesn’t appear in Google’s search results.
  5. Decide how much of an integrated system you want to offer i.e. do you only want to offer the same product range across in-store and online or do you want to provide cross channel services such as click & collect or quote in-store then buy online.
  6. Get your staff onboard with the updates planned for the business through training and reviewing incentive schemes to reflect the changes to sales streams.
  7. Work with your chosen ecommerce provider to get a website which reflects your business and is easy for your customers to navigate.
  8. Launch your new in-store system and website. Use the detailed cross-channel view you are now getting of your business activity to expand and improve the products and services you offer.
  9. Reap the rewards of being a true multichannel retailer.

Why not benchmark yourself against a few fundamentals of being a modern, multichannel retailer?

Give yourself a score between 1 and 5 for each section (5 is the ideal):

1. Quick and easy product creation and changes to prices, description etc – A is “I can create a product once in the back office for use on both EPoS and online” /5

2. Clear stock availability and replenishment for selling in store or online – A is “I have a single real time view of stock levels. I can allocate stock across channels in accordance with trading strategies and set stock alerts to remove the risk of selling items I don’t have” /5

3. Product location for fulfilment of web based orders – A is “I know whether the ordered item requires picking and packing from a warehouse, collection from store based stock or if it needs to be set aside for a customer to collect” /5

4. Single view of customers with their online and offline purchases automatically collated against account history – A is “My order updates & deliveries are managed in one place while both online & offline loyalty points are collated against one account. Items bought online being returned in-store can be managed effectively for great customer service” /5

5. Efficient cross channel pricing and promotions – A is “I have standardised pricing across all customer touchpoints which is dynamically maintained to keep pace with today’s competitive market” /5

6. Detailed reporting and analysis of sales across channels – A is “I have visibility overbusiness activity across all channels which helps me to implement optimal trading strategies such as high margin channels receiving a higher stock allocation” /5

7. Providing cross-channel services to improve customer experience – A 5 is “My customers can buy/reserve an item online and then come into store to collect it at a time that suits them. I can also provide a quote in-store for customers to access online later once they’ve decided to complete the purchase” /5

8. Responsive website – A 5 is “My website adapts to suit the device my customer is using to access it – mobile phone / tablet / desktop – to ensure they get the best browsing experience and don’t get frustrated trying to navigate a website they can barely read.

Your Total Score /40

0-15: Your current system could do with an overhaul to get you multi-channel ready

16-30: You’re getting there but could do with a helping hand

31-40: You’re prepared for multi-channel retailing