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Pure Play to Multi Channel – Is Web Only Enough?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last year about “going multi channel”, how to do it, why to do it, how to monitor it and make sure it all works, but nearly all of this discussion has proceeded from the assumption that it is bricks and mortar stores that are trying to get to grips with the integration of other purchase channels. Hand in hand with this is an unspoken acceptance that this process is proving a bit of a struggle because these organisations “don’t get IT”.

So what about the flip side? What about all those IT savvy pure play internet retailers way out there ahead of the eCommerce maturity curve? If it is true “multi channel” that is really needed now, not “moving online” then are they going to have to look at opening physical stores? Will they be able to jump the learning curve and move straight in at the head of the queue? How will their monitoring and measurement needs differ from what they have in place now?

The IMRG/Capgemini E-retail Sales Index shows that multichannel players now outperform pureplays, a gap that had been steadily closing for the past two years, as customers are more attracted by the wider choices of interaction and delivery/collection options offered by multichannel.

Companies that started out online have been seen opening shops in the high street, or taking concessions inside others recently. It seems to be the “click and collect” model that is taking shape first, with more customers finding daytime only postal deliveries inconvenient when all members of a household are out at work.

Delivering The Goods

Secure delivery/drop off points are being offered by companies such Collect+ for clients like Figleaves and Boden for order collection and returns in places such as BP garages, independent corner shops and chains such as Costcutters. They have over 4000 outlets and deliveries are fully tracked with information being sent by text and email. This is a way to go multichannel without having multiple channels.

Even the giant of the web pureplays, Amazon, is in on the game with secure lockers installed in the 24 hour 7-Eleven convenience stores in the USA and the introduction of a similar scheme here in the UK, installing them in London offices and Land Securities owned shopping centres. The lockers are helping to cut the number of failed deliveries and frustrated customers.

Delivery has become something of a battle ground for eCommerce providers, as covered in our previous article on this topic, as customers are struggling with the issue that the convenience of searching for products and ordering online is often undermined by the logistical problems of actually getting hold of the goods. With no major changes apparently forthcoming in the postal service it is interesting to see how the pureplays are evolving into a multichannel world again.

Data Gathering

Previously pureplay retailers should be well equipped to compete on the high street as they are already advanced in terms of use of customer and performance data and the need for monitoring. However they do have years worth of data on how their customers behave in, and what their needs are, in any other channel but web.

Some quick and clever commercial thinking will be needed, and the first thing they will need to do is gather data.

The beautifully simple idea behind multichannel data is that seamless transparency across all systems throughout the entire end-to-end customer interaction process will enable businesses to deliver exactly what customers want, intelligently and efficiently, when and where and how they want it. While the pureplays are unlikely to face the challenges of huge legacy systems at the heart of their logistics infrastructure that so tax many high street retailers moving online and looking to consolidate data and meaningful measurement and metrics the model outlined above has its own monitoring challenges.

Not having to foot the bill for physical premises or complex logistics systems is a clear advantage on the one hand, but on the other it means you are relying on a 3rd party for all much of your backend and it can be hard to get meaningful comparative measures from multiple suppliers.

Also, working in partnership with other organisations depends on DATA. Not only data, but a “single point of truth” for viewing that data that is trusted by all stakeholders, suppliers and partners, and a “common language” with which everyone can discuss and analyse results. Without this the risk of lots of time and money being lost to wild goose chases and misunderstandings can increase exponentially.

Understanding Customer Experience

A monitoring tool that replicates customer experience, whatever the interface / channel used, will avoid getting tangled up in such software specific issues. If used across the entire organisation to provide a common language for collaboration performance reporting may also help with management identification of problems that may not come to light where staff are only looking at data within departmental silos. In addition a tool like a user journey replayer can help identify front end issues with browser rendering time which may arise from conflicting content, design or customer acquisition strategies.

When thinking about implementing multichannel monitoring it is equally important to have insight into how the various backend systems are talking to and supporting, one another (whether that is event video streaming live to instore shop screens, or the inventory system updating eCommerce and mCommerce sites simultaneously, or a third party component providing time critical data to a search or trading engine for example), as well as reporting on the front end experience of the users of all of those channels themselves with 24×7 automated mystery shopping that can “do what the customer does”.

Once the order has passed into the system tracking it to ensure it reaches the right destination, and that that the inventory system is talking to all the distribution and fulfilment centres and updating correctly becomes key. Not only will this help to identify bottlenecks and pinchpoints, but it will make managing, supporting and negotiating with suppliers, affiliates and partners under the terms of SLAs much more efficient and productive as everyone has access to a “single point of truth”.

Due to this complexity it is often preferable to use an impartial 3rd party for monitoring, not a tool that comes with one particular system. Using a multitude of such tools can quickly make any attempts at wide ranging horizontal analysis impractical as what is measured, and the measurement methods, are unlikely to be consistent and so comparisons will be meaningless.

If this whole strategic move is based around customer delivery needs then managing this level of delivery service throughout the entire supply chain is crucial – and the bigger the promises, the bigger the cost of failure. With so many variables the need for accurate measurement and monitoring information is paramount.

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To help support all teams, and provide a “single point of truth”, all products in the SV Monitor Suite are designed to ensure that everyone can understand and be proficient in using the wide ranging metrics to deliver ongoing improvements.