Argos shows way in multichannel retail

If you were in any doubt about the benefits of multichannel retailing, let me give you a few statistics that provide a very compelling argument:
• In March 2011, UK consumers spent £5.1bn online, up 14% year on year
• One in four shoppers are buying online at least weekly
• Multichannel retailers saw a growth of 19% in 2010, while online-only retailing recorded growth figures of 6%
• Multichannel shoppers (65-70%) are in the majority and spend significantly more than single channel shoppers
Five years ago you probably would have got away with tacking a website onto your retail offering and then proudly announcing to the world that you offered a multichannel experience. Not so now. Multichannel demands all the bells and whistles. From mobile enabled websites through to dedicated smartphone apps and, of course, social media. It’s even changed the in-store experience. Stores have gone from “pick and pay” transaction-led environments to “play and order away” more conceptual and interactive showroom spaces – think Apple stores.
If getting to grips with the 2011 view of multichannel isn’t enough of a headache, the next hurdles are relevance and consistency. Arguably it’s these factors that deliver true competitive advantage and form the crux of the multichannel offering. In fact, marketing relevance and consistency are the fuel that flows through the multichannel touchpoints and powers profitability.
Organisations that are getting this right are winning. Argos is a case in point. Last year its multichannel sales hit £1.9bn and industry observers have pinpointed the relevance and consistency of its brand messages across different platforms as one of the key drivers. It has a seamless flow between in-store, Web, mobile and social media. Not only does it enable customers to interact with the retailer when and how they want to, when the customer does interact they immediately know they are dealing with Argos as its brand voice is the same no matter the touchpoint, which immediately engenders trust.
Ultimately, multichannel has got to be greater than the sum of its parts and it boils down to relevance and consistency being the value-add. Brands that don’t grasp this are missing a vital trick, akin to spending years developing the next Formula One supercar but forgetting to recruit a Lewis Hamilton to drive it.

Alistair Stewart is a director at Bezier

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