shutterstock_8056123The retail industry is in a constant state of change, coupled with many new challenges: Whether it is the increasing use of mobile devices or the development of new social media channels that come more and more to the fore as sales and information platforms.

To hold their ground on the market in the future, and to meet the demands of consumers, vendors have to continuously optimize their multi-channel performances – in fact, more than ever - to be able to exploit synergies between the channels and to stay ahead of their competition.

Comparing prices via smartphone, redeeming online vouchers in-store, or order to deliver flowers and little somethings directly: dealers that reach and address their consumers on multiple communication channels, can look optimistically into the future. Last year alone, for example, 14 billion euros have been generated in the non-food sector, according to a GfK and Accenture study, and the number is rising.

Multichannel is currently the trend that makes the online business boom as it offers the bricks and mortar businesses many possibilities as well. However, those who want to implement successful multichannel commerce have to rely heavily on a consistent strategy and innovative IT solutions. Thus, the following tips should be helpful to master the challenge of multichannel successfully in the long-term.

  1.  Dovetailing channels wisely

With the increase in mobile devices, customers expect more than ever to be able to access product information anytime and anywhere - and if desired to buy, too. Hence, "everywhere commerce" has become a customer requirement that, although it challenges trading company, opens up many more diverse sales opportunities. Those who wisely link their channels will score - be it the online shop, social media appearances, newsletters or local stores - whereas a unified design certainly strengthens the recognition value.

  1. Scoring with the potentials of the bricks and mortar shop
    The prediction of the end of bricks and mortar stores - even those in the city centers – has been going around for quite some time now. However, when it comes to electronics and fashion, consumers still preferably buy their products in stores where they can touch and examine the goods – obvious advantages that should be emphasized. Now, thanks to so-called local commerce measures such as "click and collect", consumers can get information online and order, but pick up the desired product directly in the local branch. With vouchers or coupon campaigns that are advertised for example in social media channels, dealers can connect their online and offline business optimally. Even regional offers and promotions can be implemented that way. Not to mention that with local offers you get to know your customers better and gain insight into their needs and the most popular products. However, always keep in mind that such special promotions have to be integrated into all systems and must be known to all employees at the point-of-sale (POS).
  2. A strong IT background is crucial
    Innovative multi-channel strategies can certainly meet the increased customer experiences. However, companies that want to implement the strategy successfully must set the course in the first place with an optimal IT infrastructure. Customer information such as requests, purchase behavior and even reviews, should be stored in the process in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Aspects such as product strategy and category management can best be mapped to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and business intelligence (BI) solutions in addition can help to analyze and mobilize information about sell-offs, the most popular products, as well as channels and reporting metrics.
  3. Mobile payment has to be simplified
    Without doubt, a consistent and user-friendly corporate identity on all channels brings more convenience for customers and increases their willingness to buy. Besides that, innovative mobile payment systems make the shopping experience for the buyer even easier and more enjoyable. Companies that consider a multi-channel strategy should therefore pay particular attention to the buying process: Is it coherent and optimized for international sales? Are various payment methods available? Customers who experienced a smooth - and above all safe - buying process, embrace the possibility and share their positive experiences.

In times in which competition is becoming stronger and markets become more dynamic, the multi-channel trade can no longer be ignored, because an extensive and innovative product selection alone can’t ensure success any longer. Channels, such as your own online shop, newsletters, social networks as well as the bricks and mortar store, should be consistently integrated. This is where IT solutions offer companies a good basis to optimally organize and analyze these processes.

By Daniela La Marca