In Cross –Channel retail, a consumer has a consistent experience with a retailer across all channels made available by the retailer. That means having the same marketing message, pricing, and customer service everywhere — in store, print, mobile, email, online, catalog or call center.
It has been reported that customers buy 30 per cent more than they would as single channel shoppers. Cross-channel retail gives a seamless experience to the consumers while giving fourfold advantage to retailers as well, which are customer experience, streamlined operations, improved profitability and optimised inventory.
Online spending is now a significant percentage, representing more than 25 percent of overall retail revenue by the end of 2010. Consumer expectations for flawless cross-channel shopping have increased as much. Retailers, however, are facing two major snags: a lack of cross-channel operational efficiencies and lingering technical shortfalls.
Reinforcing customer experience
Cross-channel solutions allow retailers to redefine the customer experience, improve merchandising, overcome inventory challenges, capture lost opportunities, take advantage of real-time demand information and accomplish operational efficiencies that were not possible before. Innovative cross-channel solutions include next-generation e-commerce systems, which include:
- In-store and online retail functionalities that capitalises on consumer demand preferences
- The convenience to order online and have it delivered directly to the customer
- Purchasing and utilising gift cards and loyalty programs across any channel
- Convenience of E-Mail Marketing Software - campaigns and promotions, advertising etc. which can be used both online and offline in the stores
The new solutions to Cross-Channel retail are one too many: business intelligence and e-marketing systems, guided selling and endless capabilities by accessing inventory across the retail chain and by generating online transactions from the store via the point-of-sale (POS), kiosk or handheld devices as well as order management are some new solutions besides solutions for payment convenience that has evolved from plastic card to mobile payment or even COD which has also helped in increasing the revenue of Cross-Channel. Mobile applications that connect to website are also a new way of placing order.
As Utsav Seth, CEO of Pavers England puts it,"Cross Channel Retail helps in filling up the gap in demand and supply.E-commerce, a supplement to Brick and Mortar model certainly helps the revenue".
Benefits to retailers
Through the implementation of cross-channel retail solutions, which will allow retailers to consolidate their multiple sales channels and inventories, retailers will see numerous benefits such as:
- Increased revenues
- Cross-sell and up-sell opportunities during customer in-store pickup
- Recovery of lost sales
- Improved overall customer satisfaction
- Better customer contact, communications and marketing through improved service options
- Enhanced personalisation and business intelligence
- Lower order and fulfillment costs due to improved merchandising and inventory management, streamlined fulfillment processes through distributed fulfillment capabilities, implementation of intelligent order routing and shipping cost optimisation and by lowered cost of store-to-store transfers
- Broadened capabilities of existing POS and WMS (warehouse management systems)
- Superior merchandising decision making by obtaining new demand and forecasting information not previously available
Overcoming technical snags and operational efficiencies:Anverali of Metro Shoes explains why e-commerce may experience difficulty in appeasing customers," Customer Eccentricity in getting the goods delivered ASAP, Variation in product quality and not adding freshness and updating site at regular intervals".
Well, like any technology, Cross –Channel has its own share of snags which can, god forbid, affect sales if the server is down or if it is not updated upto-the-minute. Moreover, the website should be formatted in such a way to give convenience and each information to the customer. The staff in charge of retail operations has to be on their feet all the time so as to avoid meting out unpleasant experience to the customer. Let’s admit it, we see any e-commerce business as a less expensive arrangement on the website and a little discrepancy could affect the trust of the customer who may feel betrayed because the store is not physically present and they are unable to lodge a complain. The website should solve their problems immediately so as to retain their trust.
Conclusion: The benefits of Cross Channel Retail cannot be ignored in face of its various advantages. Let me tell you, a store is never enough to meet the demands of customers. Cross Channel Retail with its wider presence helps in shortening the demand- supply gap. So, if you haven’t already, embrace it now to increase the size of your retail. Remember, what is big will stay in mind of the consumers for a long time.