Sometimes you just want to search for a product on a retailer's Web site from the comfort of your touchpad or keyboard, and click "add to shopping bag" without having to get in the car and drive 30 minutes to some local boutique, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus. If a shoe I am searching for is out of stock, I might pull up a browser and search for it on Google Product Search, now known as Google Shopping, to see if I can find it elsewhere.
Often that search can serve up names of retailers I don't recognize, which makes me reluctant to plug in my credit card number and click to buy. I'm not the only one who likes to buy online. Online sales at Macy's and Bloomingdale's Web sites rose 42.3% in May, according to Macy's Inc. So what's the problem with buying online? TLC's What Not To Wear Co-host Stacy London explained last Tuesday that she buys a lot of clothes online, but also returns them.
Returns remain one of the biggest problems with online shopping -- not only for small items like shoes, but large items, such as televisions. Another problem remains a lack of back-end IT integration between online and in-store inventory and ordering systems. Some boutique retailers don't manage their own Web site and ordering, so the physical store and online store must operate as two different companies. For example, Neiman Marcus supports the Web site and ordering system for Michael Kors.
Multichannel retail sales and marketing require the integration of data and systems, including mobile. I wrote about a concept in 2009 that describes a warehouse for online retailers to show their wares, thinking it could reduce returns and increase sales. My version of showrooming meant having a place where Internet companies would coop in brick-and-mortar retail stores, selling everything from clothing to high-ticket items like flat-screen TVs. It would give consumers a showroom to touch and feel merchandise.
Web sites, supported by search engines and site search, will become the cash cow for merchants -- but those without the physical store need a place to set up their wares. Advertisers would have more opportunities to target consumers with ads and coupons because many spend time online.
Several recent articles refer to a similar strategy, which apparently retailers view as a threat. Analysts believe revenue from in-store sales remains under attack by the proliferation of smartphones and comparative shopping apps like Amazon used in stores by consumers looking for the best price and availability.
How will your company think out of the box and into multichannel marketing?