‘Multi- channel’ has become a bit of a ‘Web 2.0 buzz word, but it has become one of the most expansive sectors in e-commerce. ‘Multi Channel’ (we shall call it MC 2.0 for comedic slogan purposes only) can involve a retail organisation having several touch points for interactions with customers and also several competitive routes to market. Large traditional ‘Bricks and Mortar’ (apologies for my over use of apostrophes this evening) companies have expanded to incorporate several channel for example Next Retail
- Walk in Stores
- Paper mailing catalogue (which is also present in the store to showcase the full range of products)
- Online Shop
- Call centre operations
- Affiliations with comparison shopping engines, pay per click advertising, shopping directories as well as other new media advertising.
To complete the set they should think about marketplaces such as eBay. They may be satisfied with their end of season re-sellers already on eBay.
In response to this expanse in retail channels, companies specialising in total retail solutions (such as Channeladvisor,Marketworks, Venda and Truition) have spawned from the far corners of the earth. These systems incorporate as many product to consumer channels from one platform as possible, providing a custom branded system. These systems are also available (and mostly piloted by) the smaller virtual retailer. Many of these smaller retailing business have taken such a slice from the high street that the larger players had to respond to the drop in sales.
Going MC 2.0 is about opening up your offerings to different markets as well as your products being available across all channels.
Retailers should be looking to synchronise the service level across all channels. All channels should be fully integrated with existing systems and correctly aligned across:
- Price (even though some companies have set up separate branded channels to be more competitive on-line without being detrimental to their high street trade)
- Gift Vouchers (should be able to be used off-line and on-line)
- Terms and Conditions
- Order process and Returns
A customer likes a single experience across the various channels.
One department should administer all channels to the consumer, as a customer does not like to be passed from pillar to post with their queries about a product or order.
And this is the end for ‘E-commerce and its MC 2.0 adventures’ for now!