Multi-channel strategies present opportunities

multichannel retailA recent Retail Gazette report on consumer trust found that brick-and-mortar stores can leverage their physical presence to help build a strong online business. The competition between pure online sales and the companies that ruled the pre-internet era has been fierce. Brick-and-mortar store owners can use their long-term brand recognition as a weapon.

Trust as an opportunity

The Retail Gazette commissioned a study of the level of trust customers have toward different retailers. The survey found that 81 percent of shoppers trust multi-channel sellers. Only 67 percent said the same of retailers that exist only online. The numbers for reliability also displayed a gap, with 83 percent of customers seeing multi-channel companies as reliable, as opposed to 70 percent when asked about online merchants.

"This may be that a physical presence provides more solidity and a confidence to consumers as they can see the actual store. It also provides evidence that they are not just a small operation, and can rely on them to deliver or somewhere to complain to. Of particular interest is the perception that multichannel retailers are more reliable than just online, which could also affect the perception of trust," Ralph Risk, director of the firm behind the survey, told the Gazette.

Transformation process

Turning a physical sales powerhouse into an agile multi-commerce store could require drastic shifts and additions, especially in the technology department. A strong, reliable website with a trusted transaction management system could be the difference between closing a sale and losing a shopper to a company with a more established online presence.

Similarly, customers could react negatively to a seller that is unable to deliver goods quickly. Turning a supply chain designed to place objects onto store shelves in a timely manner into one that can send those products directly to shoppers requires new and altered supply chain management procedures.

Multi-channel is a new "look" for sellers, but one that could represent a change in the way they are perceived in the market and expand their reach to stay competitive among online newcomers.

According to a new report by Jones Lang LaSalle, the market has moved in a multi-channel direction in recent years. The study found 92 percent of companies maintaining an online sales presence, 68 percent selling in person and 64 percent reaching customers through catalogs. The report's authors emphasized that modern technology including mobile access to the internet, has moved retail "everywhere."