Multi-Channel Retail is Hot

imageI usually try to keep news related updates on Twitter, but a couple items hit my radar screen this week that really stuck me.

Zara, an amazingly nimble ‘Fast-Fashion’ global retailer whom I greatly admire, is launching eCommerce sites at break neck speed.  According to the Wall Street Journal article:

On September 2, Zara started selling its products online in six European countries: France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the U.K.. It’s gone down so well with customers that Zara now plans to go global, with online stores opening in Austria, Ireland, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg during the second half of 2010 and extending to the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Japan during 2011.

Clearly Zara understands that all shoppers are now multi-channel shoppers and want to be able to enjoy the benefits of the Zara brand across all those channels.

The same week, Brian Dunn (CEO at Best Buy) in his comments from Best Buy’s quarterly earnings call revealed:

We know that 60% of our U.S. store sales are influenced by our customers’ experience on bestbuy.com and 40% of the products we sell online are picked up in-store and our multi-channel approach will serve us well into the holiday season.

Not only are the majority of Best Buy’s customers using multiple channels, but it seems the majority of them use multiple channels for a single purchase!

If shoppers are going to use multiple channels for every purchase decision, how integrated are those channels?  Will the shopper get a seamless experience across the web, store, and mobile?  In too many cases, I’ll bet the answer today is “no.”

It’s time for merchants to get serious about multi-channel.  We need to break down the old legacy silo’s that separate these various channels, we need to resist the urge to create a new silo for mobile, and we need to start inventing some true great cross-channel experiences.  Our shoppers are already there!

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