Retailers without multichannel risk losing business

Retailers without a multichannel offering could start haemorrhaging cash as customers' expectations change, according to research

Retailers without a mature multichannel offering could soon start haemorrhaging cash, as customers expect a unified shopping experience in the next two years, according to research.

Some 60% of respondents said they expect converged retail channels to be the norm by 2014, according to a report by IT services firm Capgemini. But more than half of shoppers said most retailers lack consistency in the way they present themselves across channels.

Bernard Helders, retail director at the firm, said: “The industry should not only seek to understand the technology, they must separate hype from reality and, crucially, commit to cross-channel collaboration to stay profitable in today’s tough economic climate. 

"This is critical for retailers to identify who is really using these channels and essential in determining where to make digital investments and how to monetise them.”

Of 1,000 UK shoppers surveyed, 43% said they had bought  food online within the past six months - more than double the rate of German digital shoppers

Respondents flagged Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda flagged as the favourite places to shop for food. Around 33% of UK digital shoppers state that the role of social media will increase in their own shopping behaviour in the next three years.

Andy Mulcahy, analyst at IMRG, said that, with the proliferation of connected devices, the term multichannel was becoming passé. 

Mulcahy said in the future "omni-channel" consumer shopping environment, it would be incumbent on retailers to use customer data intelligently and use location-specific marketing strategies.  

“They should identify customers demographics, so if they are a high-end retailer they probably have customers using tablets. Then if a lot of people are accessing their site in this way making their websites tablet-readable should be their number one priority,” Mulcahy said.

Business intelligence tools could also be used effectively to make sense of the deluge of customer data, but retailers must have a clear strategy of what it is they are trying to find out and what they will do with the information, Mulcahy said.

Social media, mobile commerce and international markets are unquestionably the three large growth areas, he said.

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Retail isn’t the only vertical sector that needs to align all its channels; in terms of communication we’re seeing quite a few sectors slow at implementing multichannel messages. For example the insurance and utilities sectors are lagging behind in integrating customer communications. Analytical tools are available and online channels make it easy for them to communicate, yet some still aren’t investing in ways to attract and retain customers in today’s competitive environment. Despite most people being online and expecting a certain level of online communication, only 10-15 per cent of communications are being delivered through electronic channels, even though it is cheaper to implement and quicker to respond to customer queries, so we definitely expect this to change in the next 1-2 years.
Nigel O'Dell, Client Manager at HP Exstream

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