INNOVATE: 8 Best Practices for Cross-Channel Retailers, Part 1
The growing number of cross-channel shoppers, an increase in location-based services and the rise of virtual goods incentives are just three of eight retail trends addressed during sessions I attended this week at INNOVATE 2011, the Retail Innovation and Marketing Conference sponsored by the National Retail Federation. Here's part one of a two-part series providing you with eight best practices surrounding these trends that I've learned from retailers, analysts and retail consultants this week in San Francisco:
1. Assume your customer is a cross-channel shopper. Retailers must understand that cross-channel is here and they have to build their business processes around that fact. "The shopping process is a multichannel process for customers today, and, as a result, retailers need to communicate with them in an integrated way," said Van Baker, vice president and research director for retail and manufacturing advisory services at Gartner Inc., who spoke at a session that discussed disruptive business models poised to shape retail.
"Retailers need to leverage analysis to determine multichannel shopping behaviors in their customer bases," Baker added. This means creating promotions that are consistent across all channels. "If you have a promotion on your website, make sure it aligns with your point-of-sale materials in your stores," Baker said. "Make sure your return policies are consistent across all channels as well."
2. Use iPads in your stores … cautiously. Yes, iPads can be a great tool for retailers. Some have used use them as mobile catalogs, others to equip sales associates with them to gather customer data and still others as portable cash registers. The iPad can even be used to allow in-store shoppers to view merchandise and place orders. But a key takeaway from several sessions this week was to think carefully before implementing them into your retail operations.
"Sure, iPads are a great tool for retailers and make a lot of sense in most situations, but we have 2,000 stores — that can get expensive," said Bill Bass, president of the Charming Direct division of Charming Shoppes, who spoke at a session about how customer insights can shape retailers’ futures.