Retail Industry multichannel solutions

Multi-channel Retail in the New Normal

In the new normal, the key to retail success lies in multi-channel strategies, augmented by an effective customer service outsourcing partner. Businesses that nail the omnichannel retail approach can look to achieve a 10–12% of growth in operating income. However, those who are late to hunker down are in for a bumpy ride.

In 2020, 30 major retailers filed for bankruptcy. The list included household names like Century 21, Francesca’s, The Paper Store, J.C. Penney, Guitar Center, and Neuman Marcus. The most common reasons cited by these retail giants include a dip in offline shopping, supply chain breakdown, and delay in adapting to an online-first approach.

Where Does Multi-Channel Fit In?

As compared to the pre-pandemic world, the customer priority hierarchy has transformed. Aspect’s Customer Index 2020 shows that “Getting it done right” is the top preference across all age groups. Buyers and sellers expect key processes (for example, order fulfillment, refund management, fraud prevention, query resolution, etc.) to be completed with minimum delay.

Effectiveness, accuracy, and security were the next key expectations from a retailer. Seamless experiences, speed, convenience, ease of use, and trust, came in second with 39% of the votes. A majority of survey respondents did not consider the personalization of products and creativity important.

Participants also valued the ability to swap between channels three times more than knowing the live agent’s name and process. 46% expressed that flexibility to choose channels was crucial. On average more than 50% of customers are likely to engage with three to five channels during a purchasing journey, or a query resolution cycle. The survey also revealed that the average user switched between websites and mobile channels at least six times before making a purchasing decision. 

To stay relevant, retailers need to synchronize all channels of customer interaction and centralize the process. Brands need to possess the ability to engage in any medium of the user’s choosing. 46% of customers prioritized the ability to interact with their method of choice—voice, chat, email, SMS, messenger apps, etc—over everything else.

The muscle memory associated with personal retail experience has also seeped into back-end processes. Sellers have begun interacting with business owners in the same way as buyers. They are scouting for partnerships that have multi-channel distribution, and robust accounts payable and receivable processes that simplify business. Flexibility to choose interaction types and modes of query resolution are seen as a bonus.

The Power Of Partnerships

Employing multi-channel strategies will require the restructuring of operational dynamics. Retail brands are not going to remain the sole stakeholders in the customer journey, and customers will interact with multiple touchpoints to make a purchase. From acquisition to purchase, business owners will require technology and process partners with expertise in providing a multi-channel experience. For example, Tiktok has announced partnerships with Walmart, Shopify, and L’Oréal to enable selling products through video advertisements.

Once contact is made, the onus is on the retailers to ensure a seamless experience. Retailers can achieve this with organizations that are skilled in retail transformation or call center outsourcing companies. These partnerships will result in faster go-to-market timelines, reduced account handling time, increased customer satisfaction and retention.

Brick and mortar stores should be the first to acquire a digital partner. A pioneer in the American automotive aftermarket industry, achieved a 27% reduction in roll rate when they digitized their account receivable processes. The restructuring of calling cycles and query resolution also led to a boost in customer satisfaction scores.

The Changes Are Here to Stay  

Customer and seller expectations that evolved during the pandemic are here to stay. Omnichannel/multi-channel strategies will be key to meeting customer demands. In Retail Speaks Seven Imperatives for the Industry, a report by Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), with McKinsey & Company as a knowledge partner, the authors stress the need to adopt multichannel engagement. Even consumers who were not “big-fans” of online retail have a newfound love of convenience, said Sajal Kohli, co-author of the report and senior partner with McKinsey.

Addressing evolving customer expectations will be key to staying relevant in the new normal. Customers and partner sellers are expecting business owners to mirror the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping while giving the utility of digital platforms. With the next retailer just a click away, there is little room for error.

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