Online retail best practice guide: Multichannel

Neoworks shows how important it is for retailers to ensure that every part of their business allows customers to buy hassle-free.
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A good multichannel strategy means that you have seamlessly integrated systems providing consistent information for your customers across all channels. 

In short: It should be as simple as possible for customers to buy a product, whether they buy online, in store or over the phone.

This may sound straightforward, but with multiple IT systems, stock located in different warehouses and store locations, and customers interacting via multiple channels, there are a lot of moving parts.

This is the latest online toy retail best practice guide from e-commerce consultancy Neoworks.

Consumers can touch the online and offline worlds several times and in different ways before making the decision to buy. In this process it is very important that the technology enables customers to find what they are looking for and to buy through the channel that is most convenient. 

Imagine the following situation: It is a week before Christmas and mum and dad have just realised that the roller skates that they have bought for the twins are not exactly what they were hoping to find under the tree.

First stop, online: They search for the Scalextric Turbo Flyers Set that 'everyone at school has', and find it in stock, but it’s been snowing and so it’s too late to be sure that it will arrive for Christmas morning. No problem, it’s available to 'Click & Collect' from a store close by. 

“Isn’t that where you bought the roller skates?” says mum. So they head out together, taking the roller skates with them.

Second stop, in store: They arrive in the store to collect the toy, but as they walk in they see a poster for the 'must have' digital lap counter and digital plug-in – to add a bit more excitement and make it more interesting. 

Mum and dad can’t find these on the shelf, so they do a quick search on dad’s mobile phone to see if they can find it somewhere else. It’s in stock at another shop half an hour’s drive away, but as they are returning the skates and collecting the Scalextric set, the assistant asks if there is anything that they couldn’t find. 

Mum asks about the digital lap counter and plug-in and after a quick search on the till the assistant tells her that it’s out of stock here, but they can collect it from another store or they could buy it now using the credit from the skates and have it delivered to their home hopefully by Christmas, but worst case a couple of days later. “That’s great, we’ll order it now,” says dad.

Third stop, down the chimney: It’s Christmas morning and the twins are over the moon with their present. They spend most of the day with dad getting it set up and arguing about who won, who’s been on it too long, and so on.

Fourth stop, on the phone: It’s Boxing Day morning and the twins are starting to get bored. The “must have” digital lap counter and plug-in haven’t arrived yet and dad is getting impatient, so he calls the number on the website to find out where it is. 

The customer service agent is able to tell him that it was shipped before Christmas and according to the courier it’s out on a van for delivery today. While he is on the phone the agent reminds Dad that the January sale has already started, so Dad orders a track extension. It’s got 20 per cent off and it’s really the only way he can spend some quality time with the twins who seem hooked.

Two weeks, four channels and three sales later, our story has a happy ending. From the customer’s perspective it all seems like common sense, but for the retailer these seamless customer interactions have required some complex processes. Successful multichannel retailers underpin these processes with well-implemented multichannel commerce systems, maintaining consistent information and orchestrating processes.

About the author

Nigel Atkinson, Business Development Director, (the ecommerce people). There is a wealth of further technical information at

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