An overwhelming 84% of retailers surveyed conduct sales in more than one channel (such as direct sales, stores, internet, and call centres), but a new breed of customer is forcing retailers to advance further still, with 66% now working on obtaining a 360-degree view of customers and providing more value through new browsing, purchasing, exchanging, delivery and returns options through all sales channels, according to a report by Aberdeen Group.
It would be difficult to dispute the fact that retail has changed dramatically over the past several years as a result of new and emerging technologies. But customers' expectations of seamless purchase and delivery across all channels are a driving factor for 67% of retailers.
In response, 69% of retailers are working to create a single brand identity across all channels thereby minimizing the distinction between shopping preferences. And 66% of retailers are taking this even further by prioritising customers' ability to purchase, take delivery, or return a product through the channel of their choice.
Customer Management, Merchandizing & Inventory Management and Data Management have emerged as the three value chain areas where retailers plan to use multi-channel retailing solutions within 12 months. According to survey respondents, the projected adoption rate for all solutions falling under these three areas is in the high-double digits.
Real-time in-store and web analytics (70%) leads the pack when it comes to technology adoption, with cross-channel content and product information management (53%) following close behind. Respondents indicated that at least 70% of all planned multi-channel solution deployments will take place in the SMB (Small-Medium Businesses) and MME (Mid-Market Enterprises) retail segments.
Call to action
Although multi-channel retail 'nirvana' has not been attained by any class of retailer, many are gaining ground through data integration and centralised systems. This study suggests a number of recommended steps that could lead retailers falling into the Average & Laggard class to close in on the leaders as well as next steps for Best-in-Class to maintain their competitive advantage.
The obstacles to multi-channel management are many including operational complexities around different data farms of customer and product information as well as inventory management data components, but not insurmountable.
Next steps for retailers
The 'next step' actions suggested by Aberdeen include:
- Develop a multi-channel process upgrade plan for integrating browse, purchase, delivery, exchange and returns. Plan a phased implementation programme for 1 year to introduce unified and real time or near real time processes for customer management, inventory and merchandizing management, and data management.
- Develop the multi-channel integration plan for every channel customer experience touch-point. The tactical areas for deployment and testing must include middleware and SOA changes to the current retail headquarters-based IT infrastructure, data capture, system integration, multi-channel analytics, field systems support structure, report structure and customer relationship management.
- Measure ROI and programme effectiveness against Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) specific to multi-channel initiatives such as: customer satisfaction across channels, improvement in lost sales opportunities, reduction of out-of-stock inventory and average order value increase. These metrics should be compared both pre and post multi-channel implementation to illustrate the value of a diversified sales enterprise.
For full details of the report, visit Aberdeen's web site - click here.