Retailers must target the ‘u-channel’ to succeed, say management consultants

Tomorrow’s customers want to complete purchases when and where they want – and rapidly evolving mobile and online sales platforms enable this. That’s the key conclusion of a new report by management consultants, Arthur D. Little’s (ADL).

Its study – U-Channel Retail – provides insights for executives wishing to capitalise on this new form of retailing that is ubiquitous, universal and unique, assembled around ‘u – the customer’, the company claims.

“The u-channel challenge is both a short and long-term race,” said Francois-Joseph Van Audenhove, partner, Arthur D. Little Benelux. 

“This revolution will profoundly remodel the retailing landscape in the long-run but also requires taking appropriate measures today. Retailers must begin today to scope the field, understand the challenges at hand and set the directions for future developments.”

In practice developing a future-proof u-channel offering means giving consumers more channels to interact, whilst seamlessly integrating them to present one face to the customer, said ADL. Channels therefore become mere touchpoints as consumers navigate smoothly through the buying process, it said. For example, selecting products online at home, using a mobile phone to pay for them and picking them up at a convenient location.

Tomorrow’s winners who will succeed in a u-channel environment have already begun drawing the roadmaps for their transformation and are making the required investments to rethink the backbones of their retail models, said ADL. Drawing on its industry experience, ADL said it has identified seven key domains which need to be addressed for retailers to move towards and maximally seize existing opportunities: 

  1. Culture
  2. Channel strategy
  3. Value offering
  4. Process landscape
  5. Governance
  6. IT architecture
  7. Workplace 2.0

The transition to u-channel retail will not be simple and no organisation has the benefit of a clear advantage, the company said. Bricks and mortar establishments are reluctant to embrace mobile technology, while online retailers lack the physical presence on the ground. 

In parallel, large online media groups have the customer base and customer knowledge but are yet to leverage this into the retail sphere.

The full report, including in-depth elaboration on the above seven points, can be downloaded at