Multichannel commerce is moving at a fast rate, but to ensure companies get their strategies right, it may be a good idea to ensure the basics are all in place.

The world of multichannel commerce is a very fascinating one at the moment. Just like an old steam locomotive the multichannel train has taken some time to gain speed, but now that it’s moving, there’s no stopping it.

It may even have gone over the top of the mountain to career down, just a bit too fast, slightly out of control… an exciting ride no doubt, but are we doing enough to keep it in check?

From the supplier side multichannel has now reached all the big players; consultancies, software vendors, system integrators, the lot. The realisation that the question (and solution) is a big one has ensured that new multichannel ‘specialist’ teams have appeared out of nowhere.

For the companies (retailers, etc.) that are implementing joined up retail strategies, the challenge of doing this and doing it properly is hard enough, but with execs easily excited about the latest iPhone app or why the website doesn’t work on their iPad, the focus may not always be on the things that truly matter in order to become a successful, true multichannel organisation.

Throw in the added complexity of the naming game (is it multichannel, omni-channel or cross-channel?), and it’s no surprise that we may have lost our way a bit and sometimes forget about the basics.

So, I decided to take a step back and look at the foundations of multichannel – it may not be as exciting as m- or f-commerce, but quite necessary all the same.

So, first things first, what is multi-channel commerce about these days?

Whatever you may call it (omni-, multi- or cross-channel commerce), for me they are all the same; it is all about engaging with your customers in a consistent and relevant way, over whatever device or touchpoint your customer wants to engage with you.

And where it used to be ‘respectable’ to be available in many touchpoints (have an app, be on Facebook), or you may even have linked some of them, for example by offering ‘reserve online, pick up in store’ type services, these days the winners will be the ones who provide a coherent and relevant story across all of your touchpoints.

Converting a consumer from a browser to a buyer no longer happens on a single channel, it happens across a multi-channel journey. And at each step of the way during this multi-channel journey you will have to make sure that:

  • You deliver what your customer is after at that stage of their user journey, whether this is  information or transactional capability.
  • The touchpoint is easy to access and easy to use.
  • The information you provide is accurate, consistent and relevant.
  • You provide enough arguments that will make the consumer want to use your touchpoint next in their multi-channel journey (and a little incentive such as a discount may just help).

Each touchpoint can fulfil certain customer needs as part of a multi-channel customer journey and as you roll out these touchpoints you need to be clear about what its roles are.

Channel presence on its own is no longer that relevant, it is what you provide at these touchpoints that matters. Not everyone has that particular piece of the puzzle worked out as yet…

So next time you’re in that multi-channel discussion and are discussing if you should be doing mobile or Facebook or an iPad app,  go back to basics and ask yourself ‘why?’, ‘what is the role of this touchpoint in the grand scheme of things?’ 

*If this is your thing – I can highly recommend Brian Walker’s report ‘Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce’; it makes a very good read in this context.