04/01/2003

Multichannel retailing concepts - a trade must

E-evolution in the trade sector is unstoppable. In our times, buying and selling on the Web is a fact of life for producers, trade and consumers alike. But the digital revolution is not confined to e-commerce. In classical retail also, IT is a key tool of the trade. From 6 to 8 May, EuroCIS 2003 will highlight retail information, communications and security systems across the board.

One topic that is coming to the forefront in commerce and will be highlighted at EuroCIS 2003 is multichannel retailing.

Online shops out on their own — integration with primary sales channels still has a long way to go

Integrating the online shop as sales channel into the primary marketing source, whether stationary outlet or mail-order catalogue, still has a long way to go. In one in two companies, the brand image conveyed by the online shop fails either totally or partly to reflect the corporate identity of the main sales channel. Product ranges and selling prices also vary widely from channel to channel. Differing assortments in different sales routes can be glossed over, but justifying to customers different prices for the same products and services — as is the case in one in five companies — is nowhere near as easy.
Mutual advertising backup between the various sales channels could also be a lot better. Retail companies are seriously underselling their online shops. Fewer than one in two promote this option via sales staff, advertisements on shopping bags, posters in the checkout area or imprints on receipts.

In spite of this POS shortfall, retailers have taken on board that more and more consumers are turning to the Web when deciding on a purchase, and are making an all-out effort to pool the different sales streams. Around 75 percent of retail companies are convinced that multichannel concepts will become indispensable to the future of retail. Keying e-shops into existing sales routes is what trade circles dub "multichannel retailing".

Today, only a few pioneers have managed to make multichannel retailing a going concern by way of fine-tuned integration solutions. These offer, for instance, for shoppers to pick up goods ordered online at their local outlet and drop them back in case of any complaint. In some cases, customers can even check on the Web if chosen products are on the shelves in their nearby branch.

EHI — European Trade Institute — in Cologne has analysed the strategies of leading multichannel retail companies in Germany and compiled findings in a study entitled "Multichannel Retailing 2003", available at a cost of EUR 150 from EHI-Verlag (EHI publishing) in Cologne. To order, contact Claudia Husseck at husseck@ehi.org.