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In the Age of the Digital Customer – Make Every Channel Count (© Cienpies Design / Illustrations | Dreamstime.com)

PART 7: Why every channel (still) counts

  • 86% percent of global respondents and 65% of US-based respondents currently shop across at least two channels
  • 74% percent of US respondents shop across more than one channel with a single Retailer
  • >80% of all respondents conduct online research before they buy electronics, computers, books, music, and movies. Online research though doesn‘t just lead to online purchases, it‘s also critical in leading to purchases through other channels and in driving traffic to physical brick and mortar outlets.

Source: PWC: Understanding how US online shoppers are reshaping the retail experience

I remember a world, not too long ago, when things were pretty simple and when the concept of any kind of ‘e’ business was pretty revolutionary. Fast-forward a little over a decade and the e in eCommerce is almost, somewhat paradoxically, being subsumed by s(social), m(mobile), and f(Facebook) commerce, each of which, admittedly and importantly, opens up new marketing and sale opportunities for Brands and Retailers. Amidst this, the great thinkers and academics in our communities ponder over whether this represents a shift from ‘multi-channel’ to ‘omni-channel’ to some kind of ‘matrix-commerce’ model! Sometimes I think we are in danger of over thinking and missing the rather obvious, and that is that every channel (still) counts, and that it’s all about the customer.

Looking at it from a customer perspective, one thing to consider is that customers have certain expectations about what each channel provides, and a brand or retailer’s approach needs to address these core expectations. It is therefore important to understand the unique qualities and advantages of each channel from a customer and a brand perspective.  For example, we may consider that:

  • Email may be optimal for brand campaigns and customer order confirmations or service interactions,
  • Social media can be effective for generating brand awareness, word of mouth, sharing, and for monitoring sentiment
  • Mobile devices can provide personalization, delivery of targeted offers, engagement via apps, and support
  • Online is increasingly the hub of customer interaction (eCommerce, eMarketing, eService) and a first taste of the ‘Brand’ experience
  • In-store is the physical manifestation of the overall customer experience

In the recent PWC study on Multichannel Retailing (referenced above( it was interesting to note that from an ‘online’ perspective, it was actually the more traditional retail factors for success that counted the most. Consider this, the Top 5 reasons cited by US consumers as to what attracts them to  their favourite multi-channel retailer were (in order):

  1. I like the products they offer (85%)  – Quality Products
  2. I know they’re always cheap/reasonably priced (78%) – Price
  3. Easy to use website (75%) – Online Usability
  4. I like the store (74%) – Loyalty
  5. I trust them / I can return items in-store (68%) – Trust / Loyalty /Multichannel presence

So, in essence a blended, holistic approach to multi-channel seems to be the key to online (and I guess offline) success. Certainly when you consider, from a separate Forrester study on online retailing, that “in 2010, 70% in the overall growth in online sales came from existing customers simply buying more online”, then It certainly speaks volumes for the topic of loyalty also.

It is very easy, in a highly competitive market (estimated to be worth $279billion in the US alone by 2015. Source: US Department of Commerce 2010) to flit from one channel to another like some dedicated follower of digital fashion but without careful planning the impact can be quite detrimental to the overall brand or retail experience, particularly if these channels represent disconnected customer data sources and ad-hoc, inconsistent business processes. Nothing will detract more from the overall customer experience than a sense that you only see the customer through a single channel lens.

So don’t allow the latest digital affix (s,m, or f) to afflict you with channel myopia which de-focuses you from your multi-channel goals and remember, at the end of the day, it really is all about the customer, and the experience you can deliver. Join Allen Bonde, CMO of The Pulse Network, and myself, as we discuss the importance of channel in the 7th part of our blog series on The New Digital Customer.