Holiday best practices for multi-channel retailers
Marking the tenth anniversary of online retail spending, analysts project an increase of almost 20% to US$32 billion, with over 114 million consumers being expected to buy online this holiday season, according to cross-channel retail solutions provider CommercialWare.
The company says that, as the internet changes the way consumers interact with retail brands, online shopping is creating a more demanding consumer. According to CommercialWare, only 20% of consumers have a brand selected before shopping online and, with an expectation of immediate access to pricing, availability, and product selection, instant gratification has become the online consumer's top demand.
Critical service level Consumers, the company warned, now expect to have the same level of service whether purchasing, exchanging and returning merchandise online, in store, by catalogue, call centres or kiosk. In fact today's savvy shopper expects that merchandise should be available at all times, and that a sophisticated retailer should immediately be able to tell them if the stock is in the warehouse or at another store - and then be able to have it reserved or shipped directly to them.
And so lack of a seamless experience across all channels results in natural frustration and even anger for consumers who expect retailers to have such transparent operations. And with the rise of bloggers and web sites where consumers can post opinions, a negative interaction with a major retailer can become a corporation liability if it's not handled well, and in a timely manner.
Multichannel retail best practices According to Jane Cannon, chief operating officer for CommercialWare, retailers that recognise this change in the basis of customer satisfaction and loyalty also tend to recognise the need to make the shopping experience flawless regardless of the consumer's choice of channels. As a result, the company has suggested three key best practices for multi-channel retailers, with a particular eye on the forthcoming holiday shopping season:
- Consistent experience The consumer experience needs to be superior - and thoroughly consistent - whether via web, in-store, catalogue, call centre or kiosk. Shoppers expect that their favourite retailers should "have their act together" when it comes to purchases, pick-ups, returns and exchanges. Whether buying a gift card online and then using it in-store, or ordering from the web or a catalogue but returning an item to the store, consumers expect to be able to interact with retailers wherever it's most convenient for them, not where the retailer demands it.
- Purchase recommendations Many consumers who shop online know what they want to purchase but have not yet settled on a specific brand, make or model. This represents a major opportunity for retailers to help potential customers make their buying decisions. With real-time access to loyalty programmes and customer history, retailers can make online shopping more customer-friendly and interactive. Current orders can automatically apply loyalty programme qualification or allow personnel to suggest additional items for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
- Safeguard personal data With fines reaching as much as US$100,000 per month for non-compliance with credit card security measures and personal data best practices, consumers don't want to hear that their retailer is being fined because their personal information has been (or even may have been) compromised. Consumers expect retailers to safeguard their personal data, whether at the point of sale, over the internet, on the telephone, and even when sending information by mail.