July 20, 2007

Multichannel Retailing Week: Wrap-Up

There are probably four key messages that I want for you to take from our exploration of multichannel retailing.

One: A re-definition of multichannel retailing. I'd like to define it as "Pleasing customers through a profitable mix of advertising, products, brands, channels, service and community".

Two: Multichannel retailing is about employees working well together and communicating well with each other. This combination trumps marketing strategy.

Three: While customers are the best asset a brand has, you do not have customers without innovative, appealing product that is presented favorably. This combination trumps marketing strategy.

Four: No strategy works "for every brand". A subset of best practices combined with innovation specific to your brand yield great results.

Viewing multichannel retailing through this lens explains much of the diversity we see in retailing. Clearly, we could all do a better job, just ask some of our leading service providers and research organizations.

Each point is important. The first two words in the first point might be most important ... "pleasing customers". Maybe your catalog is critical to pleasing customers. Maybe you don't have to offer "buy online, pick up in stores" to please customers. Whatever pleases customers and is 'profitable' is most important. Off-shoring customer service may be profitable, but it may not please customers. Only you, as owner of your brand, know the answers.

For me, it is so important that employees work well together, and communicate well together. Many of the multichannel retailing shortcomings I've observed are due to communication failures.

Product and creative presentation of merchandise are always key --- this sets Apple apart from other organizations. Why else would people stand in line for two days to purchase a $500 phone that other companies already market for about half the cost?

And finally, not everything works for everybody. Each business has different customers, and these customers have different needs and expectations. Do what is best for your customers.

Your turn. What did I miss this week that you wanted for me to talk about? What are your viewpoints on multichannel retailing?

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