September 26, 2006

Anthropologie Begins The Multichannel Journey

Did you do your homework last night, and read the article about Anthropologie beginning their multichannel journey?

I really enjoyed this article. Multichannel pundits tell you that the customer demands you implement a multichannel solution, and while you are at it, why don't you purchase a multi-million dollar multichannel "solution". This article talked about the things we all deal with in our everyday lives.

The former CFO of Anthropologie was thrown under the bus, due to a lack of faith in the Direct channel. Who hasn't worked in a company where certain individuals do not believe in certain key initiatives?

There was a desire to mitigate the need for people to learn both the Direct and Retail side of the business. This is completely valid. Different skills are required to manage each side of the business. Regardless of what pundits tell you about the need to be a multichannel organization, it is not easy to transfer the skillset required to run one channel into the other channel. Real companies deal with these real issues. These real issues impede multichannel integration. Pundits can't help with this.

The article talked about the problems caused by different systems in different channels. A 19 digit sku does not tie out with a 17 digit sku. This caused problems between customers and employees working in the stores. These are real problems. And if profit is slowly declining, as it is at Urban Outfitters (Anthropologie's parent company), and your CFO doesn't believe in the Direct channel, systems integration becomes a challenge. Let's see a pundit convince the CFO to spend the money to fix this problem.

It is fascinating that the catalog becomes the inflection point for change. This very visible form of advertising becomes the critical element that forces channels to compromise. Nobody wants twenty-four million catalogs deliberately communicating inconsistent messages. Catalog is like the friend that brings two dissenting parties to the bargaining table.

The article wraps up with the fact that there isn't consistent data across channels, and that it may take two to three years to accomplish all of the multichannel initiatives. This represents unbridled optimism. Since the article states that there is still internal resistance, expect this process to take a half-decade. They may never achieve the multichannel nirvana that pundits require us to attain.

MineThatData gives four thumbs up to Michael Robinson, Managing Director at Anthropologie Direct, for giving all of us an honest, realistic, and normal view of multichannel marketing from the perspective of a real business leader. Anybody who ever had to actually implement multichannel initiatives within the confines of a business with diverse personalities can understand why pundit-speak is annoying.

Ok, your turn. What did you learn from last night's assignment?

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