Retailers must stay relevant in multi-channel world, says new white paper

Retailers must embrace the shifting challenges of multi-channel retailing and stay relevant to the customer.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new white paper by the retail team at law firm Thomas Eggar.

The paper, Multi-channel and the nimble retailer, argues the challenge for retailers is to offer both value and service to customers who are better informed than ever before. Online reviews detail the experience of previous customers and price comparison sites challenge retailers’ brand values, it says.

Customers really just want a great deal, great service, and all without having to wait. The paper questions whether consumers will get what they expect any time soon thanks to advances in retail technology or will the change prove too much, too fast for most.

The paper features contributions from multi-channel decision makers at some of the UK’s leading retailers (including John Lewis, Pets at Home, Snow & Rock and Pret a Manger) and provides an insight into how some of retail’s leading lights are addressing the key current issues for multi-channel trading.

According to the report authors, the retail industry has been evolving rapidly ever since the dotcom bubble of the nineties promised an end to the bricks and a complete migration to clicks. What actually happened over the past decade was far more complex and led to the current interest in multi-channel relationships with consumers, they claim.

The white paper explores how the retail market is changing on many fronts including:

  • The changing view of the customer; how customers are demanding change faster than retailers can respond to online competition or automated price comparison
  • The customer-centric approach; how retailers are attempting to capture knowledge about their customers and use this to create an improved experience with the brand
  • The web versus store dynamic; how the customer experience can be seamless across multiple channels and how this impacts technology, logistics, and even sales team remuneration
  • Social media; how stores are building communities of loyal fans and changing the way retail marketing works

Underlying all this change is the supply chain evolution to meet the challenge, the paper argues. Retailers need to create a strong commerce platform with the software, hardware, and logistics systems that control deliveries to a store or warehouse along with handling returns from customers, in order to succeed, it says.

At first sight, the multi-channel retail debate appears to be little more than how to integrate online retail with the traditional store network, but the entire industry is presently on shifting sand, the paper concludes. Technology and consumer expectations are moving faster than it is possible to adopt in-store, so many of the questions are around prioritising which changes are essential, which would be useful, and which cannot even be entertained, it says.

Retail Times’ readers can read the white paper here:

Multi-channel and the nimble retailer paper final