Note: This post is a little different that my usual trend-spotting, opinion-based write-ups. Moreover this post is research-based and it’s purpose is not to attract the eye but intended as a good read for those interested in gaining insight on marketing management within the retail industry.
As some of you may know, I recently began my journey as a grad student. I am excited to embark on this new challenging adventure and I figured since I spend a lot of my spare time writing papers and working on projects that I could bring them to my blog in a new series called “Marketing 101.” Any and all research, papers and projects will have been written or conducted by yours truly. For those in the marketing or management field, I hope you find this informational post helpful or inspiring to some degree…
You’re sitting on your big comfy couch, in your PJs, sipping wine, and watching the latest episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” which reminds you, you still need a dress for your cousins wedding. You slip your laptop out of its case and log onto the online abundance of dresses, the Internet. The consumer purchase decision begins. It took you all of 60 seconds to recognize your need and begin an information search to inevitably make a purchase decision.
The convenience and simplicity that online shopping provides to the customer is unparalleled. It is no secret that the Internet and mobile applications have been taking the retail industry by storm. Technology and the Internet have created a major opportunity for business growth and development within the retail industry. However, if this opportunity is not utilized correctly, retailers can and will suffer. Current brick-and-mortar stores can evolve with the Internet and technological advances by creating a multichannel business where they offer both in-store and online presences.
Multichannel retailing and marketing are not unfamiliar ideas, in fact, it has been made an ongoing effort within the retailing industry in the last decade. Multichannel, or cross-channel, is the idea of integrating two or more channels to sell products and services to the customer and managed by one retailer. (Pantano, Viassone, 2015) For example, a brick-and-mortar store that also provides an online shopping experience or mobile application. Most companies and retailers, large and small, have accepted and applied this method to their business. And really, there isn’t much choice. As the Internet and technology evolves and continues to grow and prove its convenience to customers, retailers need to adapt in order to thrive amongst competitors.
There was an initial claim that the Internet would take over the traditional brick-and-mortar stores but that theory has since been determined unfounded as retailers have learned to maximize and operate both channels to the customer. There are still many traditional customers that prefer to shop in-stores, try on clothes, be greeted and assisted with great customer service and enjoy the overall aesthetics that come with brick-and-mortar stores. Between people’s busy lives and nonstop work hours, there are also many shoppers that would rather make online purchases with the touch of a finger and have the items delivered to their doorstep.
Numerous benefits come with the adaptation of multichannel retailing. “Valuable” multichannel shoppers tend to have a higher purchase frequency and spend more than single-channel shoppers. By good marketing efforts and use of multiple channels, retailers also gain new customers and inevitably an increase of sales. Regardless of it producing or inhibiting sales, an Internet accessible shopping experience can also bring in significant data that can be used to the retailers advantage. The combination of both in-store and online channels can help retailers improve their customer service at all levels (Lewis, Whysall, Foster, 2014).
Where there are opportunities and drivers, there are also challenges that come with evolving a multichannel business. To start, the retailer needs to have an efficient IT infrastructure in place to keep online and web-based applications running smoothly. For instance, a brick-and-mortar store needs to have well-managed Website with a fluent design. In addition to a functioning website, IT needs a system that collects customer data from all channels holistically (Lewis, Whysall, Foster, 2014). Another challenge that comes with fostering traditional one-channel retailing with multiple channels is the possible loss of business. There are growing concerns that the comfortable in-home shopping experience is preferred over an in-store experience thus causing loss of in-store business. In addition to losing traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, there is a fear that salespersons may lose money and/or a job. Coming from personal experience as a Nordstrom sales associate, I can indefinitely say that online shopping took away from sales and ultimately money in my pocket due to the fact that Nordstrom operates on a commission-based salary. Not to mention, Nordstrom also offers free shipping and returns on all orders making it even more of an incentive to shop online. All of these challenges can be somewhat controlled by A) creating a better in-store shopping experience that creates more foot traffic by evolving to new technology standards and B) establishing a well-organized multichannel marketing strategy to get customers exposed to all facets of your brand.
A great example of how multichannel retailing can be done effectively and by using the two given recommendations stated above comes from a favorite fashion designer of mine, Rebecca Minkoff. I recently read an article about how Rebecca has done an outstanding job integrating technology into her brand. Her brick-and-mortar stores now offer a touch screen mirror for customers to sign-in if they want personable assistance from a salesperson. Once a salesperson is available and ready to shop, the customer will be notified via text message. The salesperson will stay with the customer from start all the way to point-of-sale. The dressing rooms also offer a touch screen mirror service that allows customers to request different size jeans, accessories, etc. and even gives the option for water delivered to the dressing room.
As a previous Nordstrom sales associate, I think this is a huge development. To be able to use technology in such a positive and customer service-oriented way is an astounding achievement. Rebecca saw an opportunity and said, “I felt like a lot was missing from retail stores.” She added, “Being half naked and having to hope that someone sees you when you pop your head out, that’s never been a fun experience” (Holmes, 2014). She’s right, many businesses even lose sales due to the inconvenience of trying on clothes. She has found a way to collect data that is often lost and use it as a way to promote her business to the millennial women.
Not only has the brand upgraded its shopping experience, but Rebecca Minkoff has even expanded her collection beyond clothing and added tech pieces such as a gold bracelet that vibrates when your cellphone receives a notification and a battery-equipped bracelet that acts as a phone charger. These new adaptations will definitely be advantageous for the brand as it evolves with the customers’ need for change (Freiser, 2015). I could see many more brands following this trend in the near future.