Multichannel distribution is about flexibility. It’s about engaging the multichannel consumer through every means he or she tries to shop: online, in person, or on a mobile device. It means making sure that they’re happy with every experience. The customer is flexible, so distribution centers and retailers have to be as well. These are a few trends we’re noticing in the world of Multichannel Distribution.
Getting the Product to the Customer
A customer buying something isn’t just as simple as walking in the store, paying, and leaving with it anymore. Now a person may shop in a store, try it on, and not make up his or her mind to buy it until the following day, when that person can promptly jump on the Internet and have it shipped direct. But the issue comes when these people only live an hour from the store, but live across the country from the distribution center. Shipping is pricey, and it may take far too long to get the product out without giving the customer an opportunity to decide he or she doesn’t want it after all.
Instead, retailers and their fulfillment partners are finding ways to get the product to the customer faster and cheaper. Often, this means shipping from a store. It requires technology to support the sales, and usually another employee in a store who is dedicated to taking care of e-commerce, but the customer receives the item in far less time than it would take to ship from a distribution center.
A Variety of Sales
If you’re a multichannel retailer, you’re not focusing just on e-commerce or in-store sales. You’re focusing on both, and making sure both offer the best experience. This is taking form in the way of exclusive sales. Many retailers will email their contact lists and advertise special online-only sales, which obviously drive online sales. On the other hand, those same retailers will also advertise special coupons or other offers that are in-store only, driving the same customers into the store to take advantage of them. A few retailers are even offering coupons through mobile apps.
Returns can be a headache for every party involved. If a customer bought something online and needs to return it, the act of repackaging, paying for shipping, and waiting for the return to process can be enough to turn a customer off buying again. At the same time, some distribution centers aren’t set up to effectively handle the reverse logistics of returns. To get around this problem, retailers are offering customers an opportunity to return items they purchased online to physical stores. The stores are able to accept the return, and while they may not have the item for sale on their floor, they can sell it at a sale or clearance price.