Multi-channel needs store, online and mobile

shutterstock_210979456A three-tiered approach to convenient shopping – store, online and mobile, is being flagged as the successful mix for a multi-channel business looking for competitive edge. Store retailers may not be seeing vast growth right now, but apparently they are more likely to stay on top of online sales that are currently growing, and mobile is driving sales in this area up and onwards.

“Whilst online retail sales will be up by around 14% year-on-year, store-based retailers will account for the majority of these internet sales,” said Mintel, a market research expert. He continued: “On top of this, our recent E-Commerce report found 41% of consumers are shopping via smartphones and 35% are buying via tablets. Mobile devices are making it easier for consumers to shop anytime, anywhere, and this is bolstering growth in internet sales.”

The recent actions of furniture giant, Ikea, may be indicative of this trend among retailers. Ikea has just launched a mobile app to run alongside its new catalogue that features many handy shopping tools to help improve in store and online experience. Plus, it has decided to downsize its next store build to reflect the shopping habits of its customers who are looking for convenience and increasingly buying items online. Roger Cooper, project manager at the Calcot store that Ikea is currently developing said: “In our ever changing retail environment we want to provide our customers with a simple, convenient and enjoyable shopping experience. As such, we have reviewed the design and layout for Ikea Calcot, and have decided that a slightly smaller store, re-planned with shopping ease in mind, will offer our customers a better in-store experience”.  Following in the footsteps of convenience grocery retailers and Argos, Ikea is also piloting an even smaller urban format store in Hamburg, which it has called Ikea Citystore.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s the grocer is trialling a mobile scan & go service that allows customers to scan their shopping on their phone, pack their purchases as they go and keep a running total of exactly how much they’ve spent.  When they’ve finished shopping, they can pay through a dedicated area in store; either paying on mobile then colleting a receipt or paying in the normal way through a self check out. Sainsbury’s is also raising customer experience levels and making their lives easier out of store by providing recipes for people who are stuck on what to have for dinner. The retailer has teamed up with Google to develop a search engine that allows people to enter ingredients and receive recipe ideas of what to make with them.

Another big retail name, House of Fraser (HoF), is using mobile to its advantage in store by linking it with beacon technology. Cleverly placing the beacons in its mannequins, HoF is sending offers to customers’ mobiles as they walk past. The customer can find out what the mannequin is wearing, link to the store’s website to purchase the items online or follow directions to where the items are in store. They can also see more information on the items they like, save the look for later, share it through social media or check out more offers. Andy Harding, executive director for multi-channel at HoF said: “We are always looking at ways to integrate new and innovative technology to help maximise customer shopping experiences. With such demand from mobile devices it’s important we continue to bring new technology to our stores”.

In the quest for convenience, retailers may soon be checking in customers as they come in store to help them with their shopping needs – finding the items on their shopping list perhaps, offering them particularly relevant promotions and potentially introducing more scanning technology that means they can literally shop and go without the timely bagging and payment process.

According to Shop Direct 95% of British consumers now shop online, but it’s taken 20 years for them to reach this level of shopping practice  (this year marks the 20th anniversary of the very first secure ecommerce transaction). With nearly all consumers on board the online shopping train, we can only expect to see more major changes to bricks and mortar stores as retailers have no choice but to accommodate.

The trend continues into the hospitality industry with restaurants adding mobile and online services to their menus. Pizza Hut’s new digital in store table allows customers to order and customise their pizza through a touchscreen and pay for it by mobile billing. Starbucks has introduced several mobile moments including directions to the nearest café, iTunes entertainment while customers wait and a fast payment app. While Krispy Kreme sends alerts to the phones of its regular customers every time fresh, hot doughnuts are in-store.

Hotels who could obviously never go on to develop an online only service are also bringing in online and mobile tools. Marriott for example is introducing mobile check-in and check-out services with nine out ten guests opting to use it again.  The hotel is also looking at a mobile app for guests to use to make the most typical service requests, such as extra towels and pillows, or chat directly with hotel staff.  “You cannot separate the mobile experience from the personal interaction between guests and our hotel associates. When executed flawlessly and consistently, they complement each other and enhance the overall experience,” said George Corbin, senior vice president, Digital. “In our testing of mobile service requests so far, 86 percent of guests who used the feature have chosen to chat directly with hotel associates, illustrating how much guests appreciate the personal interaction using their mobile devices, and nearly nine out of ten guests gave the experience a very high positive rating.”

Finally, businesses wanting to take service one step further to offer a fully fledged multi-channel environment now have the go ahead to build click and collect lockers without the need for planning permission. According to Penny Mordaunt the high street minister, click and collect is the next big thing on the high street.