Multichannel commerce

A lot has been said and little has been done in the world of multichannel ecommerce. There are already lot of materials, information, blogs, and articles available on various forums about multichannel. I am not delving into what is multichannel in this article. I am trying to present a joined up picture of these channels.

As most of the readers are aware that there are no defined list of channels or universally accepted channels but web, handheld devices (mobile, tablets) and telephony along with the store are considered the four basic channels.

But a retailer’s multichannel capability is not the channels in themselves but how these channels interact with each other or rather how capable are these channels to interact with each other. I am calling them channel paths.

A retailer may have enabled all the traditional channels, but if he doesn’t support various channel paths, then the conversion potential really becomes limited.

For example, if you have a store, a web storefront, a mobile enabled site and call centre. All of which are capable of taking orders but if an order taken on web cannot be returned through call centre or an order placed on web cannot be delivered to store for collection, it means there are not enough channel paths available for that retailer.

The channel paths are defined by retailer’s business process limitations, fulfilment limitations and system limitations.

Couple of the basic channel paths are shown in diagram below.

  • Office goer’s channel path

Customer browses on mobile when commuting to office. Places order on web storefront once he reaches office ( or after reaching home), selects in-store collection as delivery option (probably selects weekend collection). In case of returns he prefers to call up call centre and arrange the return

  • Housewife’s channel path

Customer browses and checks out on web store. Prefers delivery at home and in case of returns decided to go to store for returns

Above two are the most basic channel-paths. There could be numerous permutations and combinations of channels to create various channel paths.

A retailer need not strive to support all the possible channel paths. Depending on retailers business area the conversion benefits may differ for various channel paths. A retailer needs to measure the conversion benefits of supporting each of these paths and can start with focusing on the paths that are driving most conversions.

Author : Sanjeev Desai

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3 thoughts on “Multichannel commerce

  1. Very relevant mate. A retailer’s ability to prioritise the vital paths (80/20) will play a key role in deciding the percentage of abandoned carts.

    The channels will extend beyond the ones with 100 percent ownership especially in the discover, search, research, compare/decide – type of pre-sales phases.

    Cheers
    Abhishek

  2. Sanjeev. Yes, most retailers have the habit of looking into each channel in isolation. They all need to be capable of talking to each other. ‘Multichannel Paths’ is the right way.

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