Keep Up With Dramatic Changes
Editor’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series on becoming more adept and adapting to the multichannel world. Parts one and two appeared in our February and June issues.
Smart multichannel merchants let customers decide how to order. You can visit a J.Crew store and order a pair of jeans via its in-store Web kiosk while talking to a service rep on the phone. What generated the order? In this case, it was a mailed catalog. Which channel gets the credit? That gets a bit complicated.
Our first installment of this multichannel mastery article series detailed the key issues you should focus on. The second discussed how to build the right company culture. This article deals with understanding merchandising and branding in a multichannel environment, and how to reach customers whose buying habits are dramatically changing.
The traditional lines of marketing and channel now bend beyond pure identification. It’s the customers, not the merchants, bending them.
Consider just how customer buying habits — both B-to-C and B-to-B — are dramatically changing. There was near total reliance on phone ordering in the ’80s and ’90s. Web ordering now accounts for more than half of most consumer cataloger orders, and it continues to grow. Though B-to-B online sales were slower to take hold, many B-to-B catalogers also have surpassed the 50 percent threshold.
Store retailers face the biggest challenges, and they’ve been the slowest to espouse the online aspect of their marketing. Retail must embrace the Web with e-mail communications, integrated databases, a customer-centric sales approach and sophisticated online order taking, rather than the traditional store-centered tact.
6 Drivers of Online Activity
1. Web Site Search. Google, Yahoo! and comparison shopping search engines are changing the way people shop and think. Not only do you no longer need to spend the day shopping at malls or hunting through the Yellow Pages, you don’t even need a computer anymore. With your iPhone and a free download, you can compare prices for just about anything that has a universal product code.