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Customers demand multi-channel retail offerings

Australian retailers are being warned that they will lose both sales and customers if they do not engage with their customers consistently across multiple channels.

Online RetailNew research launched this week by the Australian Centre for Retail Studies (ACRS) titled Value and Optimisation in Multi-Channel Retailing, find that consumers engaged across multiple channels shop more frequently, spend three-to-four times more, and display greater loyalty towards retail brands than when not engaged across multiple channels.

While online sales are expected to increase more than 13 percent annually over the next two years, cross-channel sales (those where a customer starts conducts pre-sales through one channel, then moves to another) are expected to grow by 17 percent.  Indeed, by 2012, the report found that nearly half of all retail transactions are expected to be executed by the consumer crossing channels. Today, approximately 36 percent of Australians purchase online at least once a month, with six per cent purchasing a product once every week.

The ACRS report found that today social media, SMS and iPhone applications are amongst the most popular ways retailers communicate with consumers. 68 percent of Australians have registered to receive emails from retailers and 19 percent opt in to receive communications via SMS. Furthermore, 7 percent of consumers engage with retailers through an iPhone application and an impressive 23 percent of consumers engage through social media.

Sean McDonell, Manager – National Sales for Salmat, a report sponsor, believes consumers really do value a multi-channel experience when it’s on offer from a retailer.

“We’ve known for some time that multi-channel retailers are luring more profitable customers, but the new ACRS research clearly demonstrates that in the Australian marketplace, consumers engaged across multiple channels also shop more frequently, spend three-to-four times more, and display greater loyalty. The prize for retailers is enormous.” he said

Research Fellow at the ACRS, Dr Sean Sands, says it is no longer sufficient to consider using a catalog and a website as sufficient to engage with customers, they demand more touch points such as smartphone applications and social networks.

“Truly innovative retailers are increasingly offering additional channels for consumers to interact before the purchase, at the point of purchase and after purchase. Myer is a great example of an Australian retailer who is striving to make developments in each of these areas, and across multiple new and emerging channels.” he said.