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Multichannel key to the future, say retailers

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Most retailers believe multichannel selling holds the key to their business’ future, new research has found.

An in-depth study carried out by Fresh Minds for DHL Supply Chain questioned 500 UK retailers as well as senior professionals and academics in the sector.

More than two-thirds of retailers (69%) said multichannel was ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ to their business. And 25% of businesses said their biggest growth opportunity was in new channels to market.

And 66% said that they expected either to start or grow e-commerce sales through own-brand websites in the next three years. Of all their selling channels, 32% of retailers said they expected to invest most in e-commerce in the coming year.

M-commerce is also fast emerging as a key channel – 10% plan to start selling over mobile applications or devices in the next three years.

But despite the new emerging channels, high street shops will remain core for many. Of the retailers who believe shops are an important area of growth, 48% say it’s good for their brand presence.

True multichannel connects all a retailer’s different sales channels so that customers can buy whenever and how ever it suits them. Sales in one channel can be driven by marketing activity in another.

But to achieve this, says DHL Supply Chain, retailers must focus on back-end processes that make for a seamless customer experience. Those are issues including stock availability, which 45% of those questioned said was the most serious issue they had faced over the past year. Only 24%, however, had made this area their priority for investment.

In fact, the research found, merchants are more likely to prioritise front end performance (63%) through store improvements (28%), website usability (19%) or customer support services (16%).

John Boulter, managing director of non-food retail, UK and Ireland, at DHL Supply Chain, said: “Companies are increasingly realising that they must embrace new channels and drive sales through media that they previously might have seen as inapplicable or superfluous to their businesses, as well as maintaining the back-end operational side of the business. This report shows that the retail landscape is constantly shifting and will continue to evolve in the future, and retailers need to keep abreast of these changes and new demands to their business or risk becoming outdated in comparison to their competitors.’’

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