• Top 100: 2. Multichannel integration

Top 100: 2. Multichannel integration

Multichannel integration has taken off: No. 54 on the 2009 list of Top 100 Retail Movers & Shakers, it now appears at No. 2.

Today's customers, empowered by easy access to information, are increasingly "channel agnostic," leveraging multiple channels for each buying cycle — whether they know it or not. It's not uncommon for a consumer to encounter a product in a store but, rather than buying it right away, research it online to compare features and prices, order it through the retailer's call center and then pick it up at the local store.

This multichannel behavior provides retailers with opportunities to increase their revenue. For example, offering in-store pick-up provides a prime opportunity to upsell and cross-sell while the customer is in the store to retrieve the item she bought online.

Retailers such as Best Buy and Nordstrom are focused on using multiple channels to provide their customers with the ability to transact with them across these channels, and Walmart executives have told analysts that multichannel integration will be a strategic priority over the next five years. The company plans to use stores as an edge over Web-only competitors, notably Amazon, even as Walmart opens smaller stores in urban locations. Walmart's U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon recently announced the giant retailer's plans to offer its customers a number of new multichannel options, including the ability to order items on Walmart.com with free delivery to urban Fed-ex locations.

Social media, in collaboration with traditional e-mail, is poised to be an important catalyst that brings marketers closer to the goal of true multichannel integration. Social media is where conversations about brands, products or services often take place. E-mail, however, is still the vehicle that alerts consumers to the social content, effectively delivering "the right message at the right time" that converts shoppers into customers.

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