Retail & Distribution

New Challenges for a Concept That’s Not So New

1 August 2017

3 min

Multi-channelling is not so new. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about combining store and online sales.

Professor Laurent Raoul, associate of the French fashion institute and a European supply chain specialist, reminds us that: “combining channels existed well before the Internet. Outlets, private sales, independent resellers etc. Brands have always been made up of different distribution networks.” The globalization of brands is the real change that has made multi-channel logistics considerably more complex in recent years.


In this new context, it is up to the brands to consistently present to clients that are more and more mobile and connected. For Laurent Raoul, the observation is clear: “To guarantee the consumer a consistent purchasing experience, brands are obliged to unify their price, discount and sales policy across their various channels”. By displaying products as available while they are in fact out of stock or having price differences that are too great between one channel and another, the risk is deceiving the consumer. It can all come crashing down at any given time…


A unified vision of the brand

However, although this streamlining process remains simple when the retailer is prominent on one channel, it begins to sway whenever different channels become as significant. These enter into competition against each other and create problems with low stocks and restocking. Within this approach, there are as many information systems as channels and communication between them is limited to say the least. This is a downfall as it is exactly this level of consistency that the customer expects from the brand. They want transparency between the various points of contact and personalized, consistent communication no matter what channel (read story). For Laurent Raoul, there is a clear observation:

“The consumer must be presented with a consistent image of the brand which combines data from the various channels around a collective vision.”

Having put this forward, many retail departments are wondering how to bring back this collective vision of the brand. Laurent Raoul reassures that all that need to be done is to put a non-specialist in the client’s shoes for a moment to evaluate which measures need to be re-internalized. Typically, many retailers have outsourced their loyalty card management and are now sorry that there is a lack of data integration with the CRM.


The digital channel, an essential traffic route

With regards to whether or not one should invest in online selling… No matter how costly or complex, the answer is yes! Of course, online sales can impact on sales in-store but, as Laurent Raoul reminds us, this risk is very low. The average online turnover made by retailers doesn’t usually exceed 5%. So to be clear – a digital sales channel incurs expenditure and short-term ROI should not be a reason for this approach. That said, it is impossible to pass up on it because an online presence is one of the main traffic drivers in-store. Laurent Raoul reckons that currently, on the consumer goods market, a third of visits at the point of sale are the result of visiting the retailer’s website.

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