Multi-channel retail is fast becoming extinct as the lines blur between each sales channel, and as retailers evolve into cross-channel retailers.
First there was retail, then mail order, then ecommerce. Some retailers managed to combine the three sales channels with varying degrees of success and they became multi-channel retailers. Arguably the biggest challenge to this status quo was the pure single channel players, specifically ecommerce companies. They appeared to have the edge over bricks and mortar retailers with lower overheads so they could offer consumers lower prices. But of course people still want to touch and feel things they are going to buy, especially big ticket items.
But, there now seems to be a shift as online only businesses look to open retail a retail presence, think Google and PayPal. Will this trend continue, and will more brands to look to open up new channels, as cross channel retailers are able to create a competitive advantage over their ecommerce rivals.
Cross Channel is not Multi-Channel
Multi-channel simply implies a retailer has several routes to market, it does not infer the seamless integration of those channels. There is now a cultural shift appearing whereby retailers are combining these sales channels to their advantage, especially over pure play ecommerce businesses, and getting them to work together, becoming cross channel retailers. Cross channel retailers such as Aurora and Argos are now able to fulfil orders the same day, often within hours of the order being placed, by using stock from across their stores and online delivery services of Shutl.
Cloud Computing and Cross Channel Retail
More and more retailers will turn to cross channel retail to satisfy consumer demand and to properly integrate their sales channels. Behind this growth will be cloud computing. Cloud based retail systems offer key advantages over traditional systems. They offer real time information and a single customer and product file, which makes customer orders and notes clearly visible across a retailer’s sales channels and stock visible in real time, essential for cross channel retail. What’s more cloud based retail systems are simple to deploy, it transforms the culture of retail systems to a utility service, something that can be switched on and off, transferred and accessed from any location. This in turn helps control costs and deliver a quicker return on investment.
Much of the need to adopt the cross channel model is driven by consumers. Consumers are becoming more fickle, less brand loyal, and more demanding. First longer opening times, even ecommerce stores extended deadlines for next day delivery. But now they see an item and they want it. This is where cross channel retailers will prosper, they combine all sales channels to offer a seamless service to a consumer! Multi-channel was the noughties retail revolution and cross channel-channel will be define this decade’s retail trends.