What are the main challenges facing retailers as they strive to make their different channels coherent to customers?

Creating cross channel consistency is not easy for most retailers yet a channel is a boundary defined by retailers and not something a customer is particularly conscious of in their interaction.

15 June 2012 - Paul Bolton

Customers see a brand. They don’t worry about the channels behind it, because ultimately it’s all seamless, isn’t it? They want to start their journey in one channel and move to another, feeling confident that their online click and collect order will be reserved in-store when they go to pick it up. Or that promotions online will apply in-store too.

Execution of cross-channel retailing is challenging – there are only a few examples at the moment of those who do it really well. Retailers often know what they want to do; they have the data about their products and the promotions they want to run, the customers they want to target, but rolling it all out successfully is a key issue.

Offering consistent promotions across channels is a key example. As the online world moves in store, you might find yourself looking at a kiosk, or using your mobile phone to check promotional offers as you shop. But if the e-commerce system is different to the store system you may see different offers to the ones available in the store you’re stood in.

With consumer demand for more personalised goods and services increasing, providing a customer centred view of your product information, based on customer’s preferences and buying behaviour is another key factor in delivering coherence across channels. Providing rich information about products as a customer moves through their journey across channels will directly influence their buying decision.    

So how do retailers approach a cross-channel project? Strategy needs to be driven from the perspective of the customer. We talk a lot today about customer centricity, or the need to look at everything as a customer would. What are they trying to do? How do they shop with you? What are their expectations? If they are going to be shopping across channels, what information do they need? Every process must be looked at from the perspective of the customer.

Shoppers expect a joined-up experience, so coherent channels are crucial to cross-channel success