Thursday, March 24, 2011

When did eCommerce become Multi-Channel retailing?

If you’re working in and amongst the eCommerce industry in the UK, like me you’ve probably noticed the change in language over the last few years, from pure-play Internet retailing to Multi-Channel (with or without the hyphen) retailing.

The move to multi-channel was also helped by a transition phase sometimes called “Bricks & clicks”. This was where retailers with a physical presence created and consequently optimised their online sales presence. But now Multi-Channel is a discipline that encompasses: marketing, technology, operations and merchandising across website, catalogue*, in-store (kiosk anyone?) and mobile platforms. The online shop has now just become another sales and servicing channel for all sorts of companies.
*Yes, I have included catalogue as part of the multi-channel mix, as there is a lot of integration possible between online sales, in-store and even mobile. [But perhaps that’s the topic for another posting].

However, the most important thing that multi-channel retailing is (and needs to maintain) is flexibility. Not just in its understanding of new and changing platforms and processes, but in its adoption and implementation of increasingly fragmented technologies and devices. Furthermore the principle offline and online drivers of customer: (building) confidence, (providing) trust and (maintaining) loyalty now need to be implemented across these channels in an integrated and thought-out way, creating a joined-up brand experience regardless of where the customer is and what device they are using.

So to answer my initial question of when it became multi-channel…. I would have to state that for most retailers the delivery of a successful ecommerce operation was not the end-game, but just another step along the path to multi-channel success. Wasn’t there always going to be a natural evolution to providing numerous sales platforms to the same person regardless of device or location?

Or put another way… if the customer wants to buy something, shouldn’t they be offered this facility wherever and whenever they want?
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