Multi-Channel is dead….
Well that’s what John Gillen, Retail Industry Head from Google said last week at the BRC’s Multi-Channel Retailing Conference. Fear not, Gillen didn’t really mean that multi-channel was dead. He was actually referring to the fact that the way in which people shop is changing and very soon multi-channel will no longer be a buzz term but the norm.
It became evident from the speakers last week that any large-scale retailer worth his salt has to embrace multi-channel. Shoppers are no longer sticking to one particular channel in which to engage with a retailer. What seems to be happening is that customers are combining shopping channels in order to make an informed decision: get the right price, an item out of stock instore or the correct size. Shoppers want to be able to access products whenever and wherever they are. In fact according to Google 43% of people are using mobile in stores to do just that.
Click and Collect
The excellent speakers at the conference had some compelling evidence to back this up. Simon Russell , the Head of Multi-Channel at John Lewis Partnership showed that 89% of JohnLewis.com customers also buy in the shops, 51% research online and then buy in shop and 24% of shoppers buy online and the collect in store. Overall John Lewis customers shopping via multi channels spend more on average than single channel customers and were the fastest growing group of consumers for the retailer during 2010.
Russell believes that ‘Click and Collect’ will be the big win of the future driving people from behind their computers and back into shops. Of course the advent of m-commerce will help the development of this concept tremendously as shoppers on the move can check something out online and then pop into the shop to purchase instantly and Gillen stated that he believed mobile was at the centre of both on and offline commerce. Click and collect was John Lewis’s fastest growing fulfilment method during 2010 showing growth of +120%, representing 16% incremental sales.
Tony Stockil of ecommerce consultants Javelin Group agreed with Russell believing there is huge hidden value in the web to store process, as a great online presence can influence not only ecommerce sales but also in store revenues. He predicts that more and more retailers will take the same road as Argos with their click and collect approach, as the concept allows retailers to have less floor space.
So what does this mean for Ecommerce?
Well in a nutshell it means that more than ever an effective and engaging online presence is essential as ecommerce has a huge part to play in multi-channel success, driving sales both online and offline. Last week Drapers published their Etail report which highlighted this issue even more. Over 60% of the people who responded to the 2011 survey agreed that they were more likely to make a purchase online and offline when a website was brought to life with engaging content and stylish visual imagery; and over 70% also agreed that they preferred sites with interactive browsing and engaging content. Another research study by ecommerce solution supplier GSI Commerce has also found that 40% of customers would avoid purchasing if they saw no lifestyle images of products on a website and 48% would not purchase if there was only a single product image available to view.
Back to the Drapers Report 34.85% of online visitors used a brands website to see what products would be in store and 31.95% said they would get to the point of checkout and then decide to buy in shop. The Drapers report presents compelling evidence to suggest that ecommerce is having a much wider impact than merely driving online sales. However, from a different perspective, Tim Curtis, Chief Executive of catalogue retailer Lands’ End who spoke at the conference last week also pointed out that 58% of Lands’ End’s online sales were driven by their catalogues and that they could use the catalogue to predict their AOV. Their catalogue and website working hand in hand to convert sales.
This then suggests that online content is not only crucial to drive sales across all channels but it also needs be an effective mechanism to convert customers who are directed there via another channel.
Curtis believes that the e-catalogue will come into its own with the iPad as the functionality is ideally suited to turning pages and browsing. Increasingly websites are looking to magazine style content and in my last post I discussed an increasing use of editorial to engage online customers. However, good quality lifestyle imagery can be incredibly powerful and if used effectively supersede the necessity for additional content.
Retailers are quickly recognising that imagery is becoming increasingly important to communicate their brand values and sell the ‘lifestyle’ to customers and if Curtis is correct this will only increase as more and more consumers start to shop on mobiles and tablets.
In last week’s Drapers Danielle Pinnington Managing Director of shopper behaviour research agency Shoppercentric said “The trick of web merchandising is to ensure the products look fantastic online – good enough and easy to buy immediately, or at least eye-catching enough to inspire a store visit. Merchandisers will know which items are the best-sellers. So how can the limitations of a PC, tablet or mobile screen be overcome to present hot items, suggest outfits, and give enough visibility to engage customers? This is the challenge to retailers.”
So how can websites do this?
The evidence for rich and engaging content suggests that online merchandising will play a crucial part in a retailer’s multi-channel success. As Drapers pointed out last week retailers are beginning to understand that ecommerce sites are a powerful mechanism to drive traffic in stores and many are tackling this challenge through the presentation of their merchandise. Retailers are making concerted efforts to speed up the process of browsing looks to making a purchase through ‘Get the Look’ functionality and TV.
Pinnington told Drapers that retailers offering ‘flat’, thumbnail style product presentation, without rich media content, total outfit ideas, or new and ‘just in’ features were missing sales opportunities. “Thanks to sites like Asos and My-Wardrobe, shoppers have experienced the kind of content and functionality that is possible online, so expectations are high, some retailers don’t have the physical coverage of stores – John Lewis for example – so it’s even more important for these sites to seize the merchandising opportunities.”
H and M and River Island both have similar ‘shop the look’ features with great imagery that will take you directly to the styles shown. Net-a Porter has just launched a digital TV station on its site, which has taken a magazine format to a whole new level. Visitors can shop their favourite designers as they browse glam and informative video content and cleverly as you are viewing, a selection of relevant products pops up handily at the side for you to make purchases in only a few clicks. French Connection’s Youtique which Tony Stockil discussed at the conference uses elements of Net-a-Porter’s fashion TV and uses the social media channel YouTube to give fashion advice and styling tips alongside convenient links to purchase. Drapers predicts, that web-enabled TV is the future and retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Net-a-Porter and ASOS are already nudging in that direction.
Digital merchandising has a way to go but it is certainly taking strides forward. Next in particular have really got it sussed. The site has fantastic use of lifestyle imagery which is easily navigated and allows you to purchase the entire look in one click as opposed to jumping backwards and forwards from item to item. The dynamic and visually inspiring ‘catalogue’ style spreads make browsing the store incredibly easy.
So is Multi-Channel is dead?
Well given the evidence I would say definitely not and I think multi-channel will only continue to develop as shoppers expectations continue to rise and as devices that facilitate shopping on the move increase in popularity. I think Gillen could be right in one respect as I believe there could certainly come a time (and probably in the very near future) when the way in which people shop through a variety of channels will be the norm and it will be taken for granted that they could access products via so many methods. After all, the evidence suggests we’re already out there shopping in that way already.Tweet