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5 Keys to Navigating Your Way Through Multichannel Commerce

July 22, 2011

The world of multichannel commerce is a fast-paced, continually changing environment. Mobile and social in particular are expanding the number of ways you can reach consumers. Keeping the experience consistent and relevant across these touchpoints is your biggest challenge. Figuring out how to approach it can be an overwhelming task. Here are five keys to make it less overwhelming and help you navigate your way through multichannel commerce:

1. Put your shopper hat on. Shoppers don’t think in terms of “channels” and will seamlessly move from website to smartphone native app to iPad kiosk to your fixed point of sale terminal in-store, and expect you to know everything across your channels and have enough information about them to meet their needs in a timely and relevant way. Take some time to really understand your brands unique shopping experience. Put your shopper hat on, go into your stores, get online and shop like your shoppers would shop. Take notes on the good, the bad and ugly. Repeat frequently.

2. Understand what you mean by multichannel. Having a clear understanding of what you mean when you say “multichannel” is important. Define multichannel in terms of your specific business challenges so that you can develop solutions to those challenges. Having put your shopper hat on (see #1 above) will help greatly. For example, you may define multichannel as an ability to get a single view of the shopper across your website, in-store devices and social networks. It may also mean an ability to stop lost sales due to stock outs online and in-store. It could be keeping pricing and promotions consistent across different touchpoints. List them out. This is your definition of multichannel. It may or may not be same as someone else’s or be consistent with the latest term coined in the market. What’s important is that you know how to articulate what the challenges are to your business so that you can develop solutions.

3. Define what’s getting in the way of achieving multichannel nirvana. Each challenge you’ve listed in your definition of multichannel has a cause. Define what those are. For example, your inability to get a single view of the customer may be caused by lack of quality customer data. Or maybe it’s an inability to “mash up” and filter relevant customer data across your CRM, POS and ecommerce system. And/or it could be organizational, such as your in-store guys not talking to your ecommerce guys. Whatever they may be, define what the causes are that are getting in the way of achieving your multichannel nirvana.

4. Map out your pathway to success. Solving the “multichannel challenge” is not easy, but it’s not impossible. It will take time, resources and hard work. Once you understand the causes, take time to map out possible solutions. For example, achieving a single view of the customer may require you to start collecting more quality data on the customer, followed by mapping customer data feeds from your CRM, POS and ecommerce system to a common data warehouse, filtering that data and then serving it up to power the different touchpoints between your sales associates and consumers. There may be other solutions as well. Know what they are.

5. Don’t try to solve it all at once. Experiment & iterate. Some of the solutions will be “quick hits”, but most will take some time to address. The key is striking a balance between moving at the pace your shoppers expect you to move at and what’s realistic within the organizational constraints you face (i.e. budget, people, technology, etc.). A good way to do so is to experiment with some possible solutions, learn from them, and apply those learnings to improve your process. For example, mobile devices have revolutionized what’s possible in the store. New in-store apps that can address your multichannel challenges (such as getting a single view of the customer, etc.) are in the market today.

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