8 ways to embrace multi-channel

In the retail industry you may have heard the word ‘multi-channel’ or ‘omni-channel’ bounced around. Simply put, this is the strategy for businesses who promote themselves on multiple platforms both on and off-line.

The benefit of multi-channel is to provide consumers with a plethora of avenues in which to purchase; providing convenience and breaking down sales barriers. These marketing opportunities can include; websites, email marketing, blogs, apps and social media, to print promotions, store fronts, interiors, tv and mail order to name a few. If your business uses a combination of platforms then your multi-channel journey has already started.

Interestingly, it is important to note that despite the tremendous growth and strength of eCommerce and digital marketing, it is expected that smartphones will influence the growth of retail store sales to 19% of total sales by 2015, up from 5.1% in 2012. This suggests that bricks and mortar retail is still highly relevant and should not be overlooked in a multi-channel approach. Infact, this shows how digital channels can be used to support retail outlets.

With the lines blurring between online and offline sales, it is now especially important to understand your customers and test what influences purchasing behaviour. For example, research suggests that 45% percent of customers shopping in-store will purchase online for a 2.5% discount; 60% will leave and purchase a product online for a 5% discount. Understanding the multi-channel journey your customers take will help you to refine your strategy.

Here are a few ideas to compliment a multi-channel approach:

  1. Click and collect

    Click and collect is feature that has gained traction in a short time period. It gives customers the ability to order online and pick up their purchase in-store to distil confidence that they can buy when products are available and in their local area. This type of multi-channel marketing works brilliantly for companies with multiple stores.

    click and collect

  2. Use of iPads in stores

    It is becoming more common in high street stores to send shop assistants out on the floor with iPads to prepare them for any customer service eventuality. For example, if a customer can’t find their size, a shop assistant can quickly access the online store, find the item and order it, whilst taking payment on the website or in-store right there and then. They can even check their own store stock availability, to avoid leaving the customer on the shop floor with the opportunity to question their potential purchase.

    use ipads instore

  3. Social media sign up for discounts

    To increase exposure to social media content, many companies offer discounts through Facebook using apps like Woobox. This opens up another channel for companies to engage with their audience and encourage future purchases.

    sign up for discounts

  4. Get app-y

    Dominos pizza is one of my favourite apps (especially on iPad), not only is the pizza delicious, the ordering process to user-friendly too. It is now my ordering option of choice.
    Dominos create a great multi-channel offer with their tv ads, emails, texts, stores, website and apps all working alongside each other to reinforce the same promotion. This formula creates a strong and consistent brand, whilst channelling the consumer to the same result; ordering some delicious pizza!

    dominos app

  5. Buy online return to store

    The buy-online-return-in-store feature is pretty much click and collect but in reverse. By having all of your transactions run through one robust system, like 3EX.NET, you can run your business as one entity no matter how many channels you integrate. The benefit is to save both the customer and company any return costs.

    buy online return instore

  6. QR codes

    The simplicity of QR codes is that you can scan anything with a code, using your mobile. By incorporating a QR code onto a flyer, an email or a business card, the consumer is transported from an offline experience to an online one in seconds.
    Although this technology has been available for a few years it still holds a bit of mystery to the user.

    One great use of this technology has been implemented by Subway, who send out a birthday email, scannable in-store using the customer’s phone, tablet, or a print out; and the consumer receives a free cookie. QR codes therefore provide a great, and inexpensive, way to incentivise and generate business.

    subway birthday cookie

  7. Virtual loyalty cards

    The loyalty card has been tried and tested for years but with the move into digital companies, like Starbucks, are now cashing in on the loyalty card app.

    By providing consumers with the opportunity to top up, check reward progress, find the nearest store and even save their favourite orders, businesses can speed up the transaction process. The Starbucks app also has a handy facility informing the customer, in the form of a pop up, when a store is nearby. This provides continual reminders of the benefits of visiting the store, whilst reinforcing the brand.

    starbucks loyalty card

  8. Augmented reality

    Augmented reality is the next step in aligning digital and print. Magazines such as Harper’s Bazzar and Cosmopolitan have focused their multi-channel offers on their website, downloadable magazine, and Shopping app where you can find and purchase items found in the printed version of the magazine.
    Their latest strategy is using augmented reality to make their magazine ‘come to life’ from tips, to celeb endorsements and page scanning (usually the front cover) to play videos content through apps like Blippar. Not only do techniques like this get the consumer more engaged with the product but also more likely to share and purchase.

There are increasing opportunities out there to convert sales, and multi-channel is at the forefront. So the question is; how are you engaging your audience across multiple channels? Could you offer discounts exclusively to your social media following or incorporate some QR codes into your printed materials? Let us know what has made a difference for you.

by Austin Waddecar on 01/04/2014