At the risk of showing my age, Steve Austin – The Six Million Dollar Man – was always one of my favorite super hero’s. Let me summarize for you, as an ace test pilot, Steve Austin’s ship crashed and he was left nearly dead. Deciding that they had the technology to put him back together again, the government decided to rebuild Austin augmenting him with cybernetic parts and leaving him with superhuman strength and speed. The result? Austin becomes a secret operative, fighting injustice wherever it was found.
What does this have to do with retail? In the exciting world of retail in 2011, I think we have the power to rebuild a “Retail Super Hero” using Multichannel Marketing!! And you don’t even need top-secret government clearance.
Let me start by talking about the two most commonly used terms in this new age of retailing: “Multichannel Retailing” and “Multichannel Marketing”. The definitions for each term, according to Wikipedia are:
Multichannel Retailer – a company that sells directly to the public via more than one distribution channel. Most Multichannel retailers sell through bricks and Mortar stores, online web stores as well as e-mail and mail order catalogues.
Multichannel Marketing – marketing using many different marketing channels to reach a customer.
Why define these two terms? Because it is critical in the current retail environment to know the difference, Multichannel Retailing is par for the course. I am certainly not discounting the importance of selling using different channels, it is a key part of a successful business strategy, but this alone isn’t enough to make a Retail Super Hero.
The elements of Multichannel Marketing are truly the “Cybernetic Parts” of the Retail Super Hero. Retailers with a vision and passion for marketing in this brave new world of multichannel are redefining this industry.
Before we begin breaking down elements of Multichannel Marketing, it is important to keep two things in mind at all times as you plan and develop your multichannel strategy…
- Stay true to your brand integrity in all your marketing efforts and look for tools that will help you stay consistent across all channels of your marketing strategy. Today there are numerous programs that will help you manage all of your channels in one place ensuring harmony throughout your marketing. By using such tools you can maintain the feel of your brand and your vision in many different campaigns and marketing mediums.
- Jump in and give it a go…. Yes, you will at times find the technology confusing, and yes your teenage kids or staff will probably need to train you in a number of areas but be brave and have fun. Take on small chunks and don’t be afraid to fail. Everything you learn and experience in these areas will help you to fine tune your cybernetic parts and help you achieve higher levels of retail success!
So here we go, lets take a closer look at some of the key Multichannel cybernetic parts required to start building your Multichannel Retail Super Hero!
- Bricks and Mortar: Store branding and Visual Merchandising/Presentation
Chances are you have put significant time and money into establishing your store brand, capturing the attention of your valued customer is a key element. As you develop your brand be intentional in carrying that passion and style into the presentation of your store. Find your point of differentiation and work it! However, at this point it is about taking advantage of that wonderful in store experience and making it last! Yes this is a basic point, but it is also your edge on all those “online stores” that may only compete on price. You are creating a relationship with your customers. Multichannel now allows this relationship to go so much further than that first visit to your store, but that first visit and experience is the key to the future relationship.
- Point of Sale technology that speaks many languages
Does your POS system collect customer data? Can you develop e-mail marketing campaigns from this tool? Does it integrate with a web store? Will your POS system provide you with critical reports and analytics that can direct your decisions not only in product and vendor choices but also in customer profiling and campaign effectiveness? One of the most daunting tasks can be working with computers, it is important to find a great partner, make sure they offer unlimited support options and DON’T BE SHY with them! A solid POS provider can be your greatest asset if you are open to building a solid ongoing relationship with them. Not only can your POS provider ultimately develop your ninja type computer skills, they can often give you the inside track on how to use those great reports available within your software, insight into new game changing technology such as mobile devices, intelligence on how other savvy retailers are maximizing their POS software functionality and numerous other little retail gems.
- Build “Golden Retriever” type Loyalty
Okay we have all been there, fumbling through our wallets to find that one elusive card amongst what seems like a Texas hold’em deck of Loyalty rewards cards. Absolutely frustrating! Loyalty programs do work, customers keep digging for those cards every time. If you don’t have a rewards program get one! Your POS partner again will have lots to say in this area. Ask about Gift Card companies that include Loyalty with card functionality, and look into POS software that support their own loyalty and card tracking. At a minimum start collecting customer contact information using your Point of Sale software.
- E-mail marketing
No SPAM with my eggs thank you! SPAM is another incredibly frustrating part of our lives, so how can we even consider flogging this dead horse! The key message that needs to be present in all areas of Multichannel Marketing is value!!!! Look for ways to add value in your e-mail marketing programs. No doubt you have experienced the genius of the Apple Store e-mailed receipt…where we willing hand over our e-mail address to have that receipt sent directly to our inbox, we save a tree, never loose the receipt if we need a warranty or return and guess what …Apple gets one more connection to our daily lives…Genius!! It is not SPAM it is value.
- Social Media
According to a recent Retail Systems Research study 65% of merchants say consumers who shop across multiple channels are more profitable than single-channel consumers. Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, are significant additions to your marketing strategy and ultimately your profitability. Your local teenager (or staff member!) can serve as great social media trainers. Social media is now a very significant part of the Retail Super Hero’s vision for connecting with his or her loyal clients. The key here is connection. Social media gives your clients the ability to bond with the bricks and mortar store and then connect via these social media outlets to build the relationship and evangelize their experience with their friends.
- Websites & Web Stores
Some retailers miss the full potential of their websites and web stores. Your online presence holds immense marketing capacity for your bricks & mortar store, did you know that a 2010 Forrester Research study found that over 46% of retail sales were influenced by online research. The relationship between web store/website and your physical retail location should be treated with the utmost respect. This is truly a dynamic duo in your marketing program. Each promotes the other, each drives traffic to the other and each pushes your brand and vision in its own way. Find a great web developer that relates well to you and your team and make sure your POS system will talk to your web store!
- Search Engine Optimization
Build it and they will come, well, they may come. So you have a great website/web store that has all the flashy requirements and integrates beautifully with your POS software, but nobody is visiting. Where are they? Most likely they are busy buying from the online retailers they can find, the ones with well thought out and developed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) programs. Many retailers are aware of and may be using the Google Adwords program. That is a great start but not an end point. It is imperative to work with a proven SEO marketing organization that can really find ways to save you from spending possibly thousands of dollars on ineffective Adword campaigns and help you focus on web content and search engine friendly techniques that bring web surfers to your site naturally (organically). Many of these companies will offer different packages to suit your comfort level, and budget while helping you create content for your site and build and manage your Social Media strategy (Facebook, twitter, etc).
This is just a scratch in the surface of the “cybernetic parts” that make up today’s Multichannel Marketing machine. The stage is set and all it takes is a willingness to learn, participate and give it a go! Each of these multichannel elements have simple starting points, find a Multichannel Marketing mentor whether it be another retailer in your buying group, a business associate in your rotary group, a facebook friend, a staff member, or your POS technology provider. Surround yourself with team members that share your passion and vision for this brave new world of Multichannel Marketing, have fun and become the Retail Super Hero you truly are.
Scott Smith is the General Manager of Canadian Retail Solutions and comes to you with years of retail experience. Canadian Retail Solutions Inc. (CRS) specializes in Inventory Control and Point of Sale Systems for retailers across Canada since 1991. Our business philosophy reflects an unwavering dedication to quality, integrity and personalized client support in all we do.