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Multichannel Retailing


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A commentary on various aspects of multichannel retailing. The article presents an approach for retailers strategizing integration of their retail channels.

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Multichannel Retailing

  1. 1. technology the various Channels in retail are nothing but a series of touch points where a retailer interacts with his customer base for providing sales and service and receiving feedback. The Stores, internet, mobile phones, catalogues, kiosks, and tele-shopping are all channels to a retailer. Multiple retail channels not only extend a retailer’s reach and presence in a market, but also provide friendly ways to service a customer By Shijo Sunny ThomasMulti-Channel Retailing: needs can be fulfilled from the most optimum channel. Omni- channel service will involve highlyThe Way Forward personalised and intuitive marketing based on customer history, location or even the device that the customer is using to interact with the retailer. Mentioning omni-channel to a retailer Scan a QR code from a catalog, then it is time that one should pause today can have two possible effects: itcheck and reserve the product online, to hear the buzzword bandwagon. could either be aspirational or can bepick it up from the nearest store, and Multi-channel is simply operating dismissed as a tele-service for installation. If multiple customer touch points. Retailers venturing into establishingyou are still feeling glad about the In many cases, these touch points or maturing their multi-channelexperience, hit the “Like” button function in silos and the customer operations should realise that they areon the retailer’s social media page is aware of the aspect that these laying the foundations for the nextand receive a voucher for your next channels operate independently. level. These foundations are not solelypurchase. The retailer is increasingly Multi-channel is what it means about technology to bind channelsrecognising the customer and her literally – operating multiple channels. together. To build a phenomenalneeds and requirements irrespective The next step towards maturity is competitive advantage in multi-of the location and media that she to enable cross-channel retail through channel retail, retailers need to buildis using to shop or interact. The presenting an integrated brand image, a cohesive strategy comprising of thecustomer is getting popular. In fact, availability and service across all operational model, business processevery customer is getting popular. channels. This integration is highly clarity, channel positioning, integrated The question that many would critical for success and requires a deep systems and customer centricity.ask is, are channels supplementary amalgamation of technology, business This is not an easy task knowingor complementary to each other? process, and operational maturity. that all the channels will not beMultiple retail channels not only The next level of maturity is raised from the ground at the sameextend a retailer’s reach and presence omni-channel retail where the time for most retailers. Brick andin a market, but also provide friendly traditional barriers across channels mortar retailers, who have beenways to service a customer. do not exist. A customer will have operating for multiple years, would If everyone thought that multi- uninhibited view of the availability have matured in terms of businesschannel was the holy grail of retail, across all channels and the customer’s practices, merchandise offerings,104 . images retail . November 2012
  2. 2. technologypricing mechanisms and supply Maintaining product availability to derive insights on the customerchain. To avoid the risks of adding across multiple channels is a interactions. These are furtherand integrating another channel to significant task for any retailer. used for formulating creative andthe existing model, retailers often To ensure that availability in one personalised pricing, promotion andestablish subsequent channels as channel does not happen at the cost loyalty programmes. Customer dataa separate entity. These individual of another, a retailer needs to master is the cornerstone for retail businessentities will have their own optimal and accurate juggling of decisions and a springboard to successmerchandise management, fulfillment available inventory across stores and for any multi-channel retailer.and distribution strategy. e-commerce channels. Often, store In addition to the business function To add to these, multiple systems inventory requires to be consolidated integration across products andfunctioning in silos are implemented for e-commerce fulfillment or customers, a shift in organisationwith limited integration, possibly vice-versa. Merchandisers should culture is also warranted for multi-only for product information. As both harness the use of technology to channel success. An organisation-widethese channels begin to function in appropriately guide replenishment and sensitisation is required to educate theparallel, the retailer incurs supply consolidation across multiple channels customer-facing employees across allchain and merchandise inefficiencies to ensure inventory performance, channels to nuances of multi-channelin inventory holding, fulfillment and maximised margins and consistent retail.performance measurement. Some also service levels. Employees at the store should beend up cannibalizing and creating trained to handle customers whoconfusion in the customer’s mind. have compared products and prices The operational and business online and have come to the storeprocess transformation and integration Multi-channel retail for a demonstration, product feel andmodel in multi-channel retail service information. In many cases,should be centered on products and requires an integrated these customers will be more aware ofcustomers. Creating, maintaining and strategy to provide a the product features and latest pricesaccessing consistent merchandise convenient customer than the store employees. Conversely,hierarchy and product information experience across all there will also be customers who haveacross all channels should be phases of a customer’s arrived at the store to experience theviewed as one of the top priorities. product and then buy the productThis ensures that both the initial shopping life cycle from the most economical locationmerchandise planning, execution If creating an integrated product online. At every point of the customerand downstream operations can be and supply chain backbone sounds interaction, the retail organisationperformed, reviewed and analysed challenging, then managing customer should introduce and promote thein an integrated manner. The retailer expectations across channels is no other channels as well.can clearly devise merchandise roles, mean feat either. The process of Multi-channel retail is anassortments and allocation towards creating a unified customer experience evolutionary process that requires aeach of the channels in which the across all channels begins with decisive and step-by-step approach.products are to be offered. This also the effective capture of customer Retailers in India are aggressivelyhelps in creating a single view of information. Irrespective of the gearing up for meeting the needs ofproduct information, pricing and channel used by the customer to an increasingly technology savvypromotions for the customers as well. connect with the retailer, all customer population which is going to drive the Retailers operating in both store and information should be funneled into next wave of retail. A lot of this retaile-commerce models can reap immense a single repository. Any subsequent demand is going to be fuelled frombenefits by devising a comprehensive customer interaction across any both established and upcoming urbansupply chain model. The design channel can be driven into this centres. Catering to these dynamicsshould provide for a credible and repository and mapped to a specific require an integrated strategy tointegrated supply chain model which customer. For any multi-channel provide a convenient customerlooks at managing customer orders, retailer, this customer information experience across all phases of aconsolidating inventory across repository is sacred and a treasure customer’s shopping life cycle.locations and fulfilling the orders trove to reap multi-channel benefits.through effective and visible logistics. The customer repository is a In many cases, it becomes single-point reference to all customerimperative to integrate fulfillment and transaction history, feedback, product ABOUT THE AUTHORinventory processes with third party interactions, channel interactions, Shijo Sunny Thomas is thedistribution and logistics providers. stored value balances and every industry lead–Retail & CPG at Fujitsu Consulting India. He hasThese need to be further integrated other transaction that a customer worked extensively in advisorywith the customer-facing functions would have had with a given retailer. and operational roles within each channel to provide accurate Retailers are gaining significant medium to large cross-channelorder and service status. maturity in harnessing this data retailers November 2012 . images retail . 105