1mcmAs Bob Thompson, Founder and CEO, Customer Think Corp. once said: “If the past decade has been marked by widespread adoption of online marketing channels, the future must surely witness better interpretation of online and offline interactions. Customers want complete flexibility to use the channels that suit them best. Multichannel Marketing provides excellent down-to-earth insights on how to move from theory to practice, enabling customer-centric engagement while delivering a solid marketing ROI”.

While by now even the last major dealers have discovered the online business for themselves, some traditional online retailers started to work on concepts for physical stores. Since the new breed of marketers realized that customers are willing to tolerate higher product prices for the skillful integration of online and offline services, that’s actually not surprising. It is certain that the multi-channel customer is much more valuable for company today, as the ones who visit the physical store. Still, it shouldn’t be forgotten, that over the past few years, consumers learnt to appreciate the shopping experience in the shop. Thus, the key to success in commerce is combining the flexibility of the multi-channel approach with the customer service and the tangibility of the physical business. Such an approach could lead especially small traders to success when competing with major retailers. Unfortunately, their fear of lacking know-how often prevails over a transformation process.

In this case, online marketplace systems could be useful, as they provide dealers with the necessary tools to meet the multi-channel needs without pressure to invest in expertise and software. In addition to the web channel, the currently fast growing social and mobile channels can therefore also easily be covered.

When talking about multichannel, a trader has to consider the convergence of online and offline. Today, barcode scanning services already help consumer to find the best deal online. However, the disadvantage of these systems is that they don’t reward the physical store that initiates the buying process. Therefore, the implementation of a sophisticated multi-channel platform is the more important, as it is the tool for better clearance sales, for attracting new customers, strengthening loyalty and improving the shopping experience.

2012 wasn’t really an easy year for retailers, but at least it was bit easier for online commerce that actually takes year by year more from the turnover of the traditional retail trade. But even online retailers have to face the continuous challenge to bind their customers and to provide an attractive shopping environment. Nowadays, customers can shop anywhere: in-store, at home on a laptop or PC. and on the go via smartphones and tablets. The shopping malls are now everywhere, and with all these choices it is important to recognize trends early.

Especially, 2013 seems to be extremely important, as new technologies will have a huge effect on the purchasing behavior of customers - to such an extent that the categories of "online" and "offline" could soon be abolished. Thus, keep an eye on the following multichannel marketing trends to stay ahead:

The time of a distinction between online and offline is up

Multichannel", the buzzword in recent years, no longer meets the reality of shopping behavior. There is hardly a distinction between on-and offline by now: customers are informed, compare and buy on the go, from any supplier they like best.

Indeed, the customer no longer conducts a conscious distinction: "on-line" and "off-line" becomes more of a "no-line".

Merchants therefore have to embrace the challenge to offer their customers touch points across all shopping experiences they are used to. At least, there is a lot of potential for customer loyalty in all these expectations, but nevertheless remains the risk of disappointing customers and losing them, too. And that’s the reason why specialized Apps, QR Codes and Augmented Reality will play a more important role than before in 2013. Together with new payment options such as Apple's Passbook shopping on and offline will change, kick-starting the next step in the fusion of sales channels.

Everybody pays the way he wants to

You can imagine that customers who do not think any longer in accustomed shopping channels, change their payment behavior, too. How quickly and easily a product can be paid for is often decisive for making the purchase. Fact is, payment methods via mobile devices will change the buying process in 2013.

PayPal and iTunes have already started the centralization of mobile transactions, but the next big step is expected to be done by providers like Square that allow credit card payment via compact devices, that can be connected to the smartphone. Regardless of paying on account or by credit card, home or en route: The need to individually decide on the preferred payment method will provide merchants with a wide range of payment methods, providing them with a distinct advantage in the future.

Video will get more appreciation

Studies show that videos are promoting product sales significantly - typically four times as often as product presentations without video. Thus, merchants who can score in videos with expertise and advice meet the customers at eye level. Engagement is assured, especially when tablets are coming into play. Tablets are becoming the screen we use for everything, as they are mobile and a kind of different entertainment devices.

Of course, some well-known problems have to be solved first: like increasing the capacity of networks or finding out more on people’s expectations in certain content that doesn’t always lend itself to video.

Nevertheless, we have to face the truth: Mobile is cannibalizing the Web traffic right now, affecting each and every marketing campaign. But how Anna Bager, VP and GM, IAB’s Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence tellingly said in a recent Adweek interview: “Mobile is part of a value chain. It’s not a device; it is a behavior. (…) With mobile, you can own the customer.” So, let us look at it that way, when planning the next multichannel marketing campaign.

By Daniela La Marca