The benefits for retailers of a multichannel approach are highlighted this week by the fact that Halfords has recently reached it’s one millionth online reservation for in store collection. 

Customers like to do their research online, and it makes perfect sense for those online retailers with a high street presence to offer in store collection services and thus cater for shoppers who would rather shop offline.

Such services can appeal to shoppers who aren’t prepared to wait a few days for delivery, or who cannot be around to receive their orders at home due to work or other commitments.

Also, because these goods are already in store, distribution and logistical costs are reduced, and driving customers in store provides an opportunity to
sell additional items to these customers.

Halfords launched its reserve and collect service in conjunction with Salmon last year, and the investment looks to have paid off in terms of driving offline sales, with multi-channel revenues having grown by 90% in the year to April 2009.

Argos has had similar success with its multichannel approach, and its ‘Click and Reserve’ service was responsible for 17% of all sales in the year ending February 2009, growing by 45%. 

This suggests that, though multichannel integration can be highly challenging for retailers, as joining up online and offline to provide accurate information on stock levels requires a lot of effort, such investments can drive significant numbers of offline sales.

Indeed, as Martin Newman pointed out in this post on multichannel retail last year, for every sale the web generates online, it pushes three in store.

Beyond offering reserve and collect services, retailers need to ensure that customer experience is joined up across channels.

For instance, customers expect the option of returning or exchanging items at their local store, whether they were purchased online or offline.

I have been in stores where customers were told they could not accept returns because they were bought on the web, and this lack of integration can create a very poor impression of the brand.

There are also other issues: such as deciding which channel to attribute sales to when goods have been reserved
online and purchased instore, or if additional items are sold in store as a result.

Whether or not retailers are crediting these sales to the correct channels is significant when deciding how much of their marketing
budgets should be spent online.

For more on multichannel retail, this post has 13 recommendations for multichannel intregration, while here are some tips on providing effective reserve and collect services.