Multi-channel shopping reaches critical mass //php get_posflags()?>
Posted on | May 1, 2005
Written by | Ian Griffith
Story by Ian Griffith on 5/1/2005
Over the 2004 holiday season, consumers who shop and research purchases both on- and offline became the majority for the first time 65% according to Forrester Research. Customers are mixing and matching channels such as the store, websites, circulars and catalogs, with 51% characterizing themselves as active cross-channel shoppers. For example, the Dieringer Research Group estimates that 83.4 million shoppers researched their purchases online in 2004, and then walked into the store to complete the purchase.
While the store remains the preferred point of purchase for multi-channel shoppers, the web has become almost as popular for researching products. It plays a significant role in driving sales to the store, while customer satisfaction is typically higher for customers who shop online. A recent Foresee report attributes this to consistency from one web experience to the next, whereas in the store the experience can be variable due to the quality of sales help.
Attracting business from the majority of your customers now requires integrating their shopping experience across multiple channels. Of several factors that contribute to customer satisfaction, ForeSee found that inventory, consistency, and brand image were most important to cross-channel shoppers. Price was identified as a less important factor than the quality of the shopping experience.
Your store probably contains an assortment of product categories that are more or less specialized or price sensitive. Therefore it makes sense to identify the customer groups that are best served by different channels. This approach seeks to build loyalty by migrating customers to the channels they value most, and where you can provide the best shopping experience for them.
Building a website for your store doesn’t mean you should stop running an ad with coupons in the local paper. Also, the audience for your holiday catalog may not be the same group that replies to an email announcement about 2000 Barolos. However, by promoting your website to customers who read your advertisements and catalogs you can cultivate more multi-channel shoppers. Allowing customers to redeem coupons on your website provides convenience and tells them you value their business. If your catalog includes advice on serving wine and planning a party, make sure your customers know the same articles are available on your website.
For customers of specialty products that respond to broad selections and detailed information, send them to your website where you can control the quality of this experience. They can browse labels, ratings, and your suggestions in their own time rather than gambling on access to specialists in the store. With virtual inventory they can browse potentially tens of thousands of products that are available from wholesalers in your market.
The multi-channel shopper has become a significant factor in retailing. As Bob Langer of Peppers and Rogers Group comments, “customers want to have a great experience when they need it and from wherever they need it. Coordination of all channels will not guarantee that, but without it you don’t stand a chance.”