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Is Omni-Channel Retailing worth the effort?

August 14th, 2012

Category: Point Of Sale Systems, Retail Business Tips, Retail Innovations, Retail Selling

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Consumers are using so many channels and devices these days it can be overwhelming deciding which channels you should use with your customers. How do you decide what to invest in, whether online store, email, mobile, eBay, comparison sites, Facebook or other upcoming social sites like Pinterest?

The first question that needs to be answered is whether Omni-channel retailing is worth the effort?

Many believe it is. Why? Because today, this is how the consumer wants you to sell to them. But which channels do you choose? Below we discuss a few and provide some recent statistics that hopefully gives some insight so you can decide which sales channels are right for you.

Online Retail Store

Online retailing is now 5.2 per cent of all retail sales and growing at 14 to 17 per cent per annum according to NAB’s Online Retail Sales Index, Monthly Update – May 2012. While it has slowed somewhat since 2011, online trading is still outpacing bricks and mortar retailing. Additionally recent figures released by PwC and Frost, and shared by Inside Retail; show “that more than one in two Australians aged over 15 now shop online”. It goes without saying that whether you’re a pure play or a bricks and mortar retailer, popularity of online purchasing is only growing. If you’re not online, these statistics suggest that it’s imperative you get onboard quickly, and if you are an online retailer, you may need to broaden your online channels to ensure you stay competitive.

The Mobile Channel (M-commerce)

What has been astonishing is the phenomenal uptake in Australia of smart-phones and tablet PC’s, which is collectively referred to as “Mobile”. Mobiles are also gaining traction as the preferred method for consumers to research retailer’s products and to shop. Recent statistics are revealing:

  • According to Google, the number of queries about retailers made via mobile devices had jumped 220 per cent on year, and was now about 25 per cent of all queries.
  • Google data shows one in four shopping-related searches are coming from mobile phones – but 80 per cent of businesses don’t have mobile friendly websites.

The worrying statistic is that most retailers with an online store haven’t evolved their site design to suit the ‘mobile’ consumer.  With Australia having the highest smart phone penetration in the world after Singapore, investment in this channel is very much worth it and could mean the difference between increased sales or lack thereof.

Mobile is sounding even more worthy as a channel if the following statistics are anything to go by:

  • Studies by Nielsen Mobile indicate 97 percent of mobile subscribers will read an SMS message within 15 minutes of receiving it;
  • Average Mobile Marketing campaign response rates are typically 12-15 percent (as opposed to direct mail which averages 2-3 percent); some companies are seeing response rates as high as 60 percent plus!
  • Mercator Advisory Group’s survey found that 55 percent of consumers expressed an interest in receiving mobile coupons
  • However 54% of US and Canadian consumers would consider ending their loyalty relationships if they were not given tailor-made, relevant content and offers (Source: CMO Council, 2012)
  • 54 per cent use their mobile phone to find a retailer

Judging from the spate of articles in recent months including Inside Retail’s, Boom ahead for shopping by mobile , mobile marketing is set to be the biggest trend in omni-channel retailing and if your business isn’t set up for mobile marketing, now is the time to get onboard.

The eBay Channel

If more and more consumers are choosing to shop online and increasingly using their mobile phones to do it, where are they shopping? Hopefully enough of them are going to your online store, which is great but you might be surprised to find where they actually prefer to shop:

  • According to Nielsen NetView, the most popular site for Australian shoppers is eBay, which had a unique audience of 5.58 million in January 2011.
  • Almost 160 Australian eBay businesses achieved $1 million in sales in 2011, up 30 per cent from the previous year
  • eBay’s top 2000 Australian sellers grew revenue by 45 per cent.
  • An item is purchased in Australia every 15 seconds through eBay’s mobile app.

These statistics indicate that many small, medium, and iconic global and Australian brands are utilising the eBay channel though not all believe eBay is suitable for their product. To decide if eBay is for you, the most important question you have to ask yourself is this, ‘Is my target market or current customer shopping on eBay for similar products?’ Interestingly, the mobile statistic is telling: eBay, at the forefront of consumer demand, is making it easy for mobile users to purchase their preferred way and consumers are eating it up.

Social Networking Sites

FACEBOOK

Facebook is garnering mixed reviews about its ability to generate sales for its merchants. Earlier this year, media channels in the USA and Australia reported that some high profile retailers like Gap and Nordstrom had abandoned their Facebook stores after only six months. See Forget Facebook: big retailers beat a retreat. However, there has also been some positive press with an online luxury watch vendor’s president saying that Facebook had helped the company generate about 25 per cent more sales in two years. Interestingly, this success was not due to paid advertising but to some free tools Facebook offers. For more on that, see Reuters article.

Most reports suggest Facebook paid advertising is not generating a return on investment, though, “NEWS ALERT”, the ability to allow ‘fans’ to buy directly from your Facebook page is now possible – a ground breaking capability offered by Creative Computing. If you’d like to find out how, see Creative Computing’s work for Bodyboarders – you need to be a Facebook member and then search for “Bodyboarders surf co.”

For some retailers having a presence on Facebook is a branding exercise, a way to increase their presence and also build a more open relationship with their customer base. Additionally, retailers can also analyse the likes and dislikes which better informs other sales channels.

PINTEREST

Pinterest needs to be mentioned as it’s proving to be incredibly popular and growing at an amazing rate. Pinterest is a social image-sharing site where people ‘pin’ their own collections around events, hobbies and interests. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, ‘re-pin’ images to their own collections and/or ‘like’ images. Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing.

According to a post on Wiki, “Brands like fashion e-commerce website Boticca use Pinterest as a virtual storefront for driving customers to their website. Users inbound from Pinterest spent $180 compared with $85 spent from users coming from Facebook.” You could thus utilise Pinterest by posting some of your best images on there as a way to encourage people to click through to your actual website.

Comparison Shopping Sites

While www.comparison.com.au claimed 27.7 million visitor’s in 2009 (a 500 per cent increase on the same month the previous year) recent statistics are not available. Currently, www.myshopping.com.au, www.getprice.com.au, www.shopbot.com.au , and www.comparison.com.au are the most prominent in Australia.

Generally these sites list well in Google rankings and this provides another avenue for people to find their way to your online store. However, you need to consider which comparison shopping site is the right one for you and start slowly. It’s all about testing to see what works the best. For tips on getting the most out of using Comparison shopping sites, see Using Shopping Comparison Sites to Increase Sales and Traffic.

Email Channel

For a long time, email was a great channel to promote your products, sales and specials. It’s still the preferred channel for many retailers. However, it needs to be considered that people’s inboxes are now extremely crowded and/or your email promotions are landing in your customer’s junk folders. In our fast-paced world, email marketing doesn’t have the same impact as an instant text message promoting a one-day sale. Additionally, consumers are spending more time on their mobiles interacting with friends on social sites, checking out prices on comparison sites, buying on eBay or purchasing via your website, than looking at their emails. This doesn’t mean email marketing doesn’t work, but if you decide to utilise this channel or continue utilising it, then you need to manage it well and pay attention to bounce rates, unsubscribes, and importantly, analyse the percentage of sales from email promotions.

Which sales channels are worth the effort?

It’s all about Return on Investment. Every channel mentioned has some sales potential, but is the potential return worth the investment?

There are two parts to the Return on Investment calculation – The Potential Return and the Investment required.

Potential Return: Determining the potential return in a particular channel is not straight forward. Sure you can measure the value of sales from various channels however, that’s only part of the story. It’s important to calculate the average Customer Lifetime Value of customers acquired through your various channels.

You might find, for example, that customers acquired through social media are twice as valuable over the long term as customers acquired through eBay. Obviously you need to be able to amalgamate sales by customer across all channels and analysis customer retention rates in order to determine Customer Lifetime Value by channel.

And once you’ve acquired a customer through one or all the various sales channels mentioned above, it’s important you maximise potential revenue from that customer by building and maintaining a relationship via blogs, newsletters, a customer loyalty scheme, highly personalised special offers, etc.

Investment Required.  The investment required for each of these potential sales channels varies substantially. For example, eBay have fees per sale whereas comparison shopping sites usually have a CPC (Cost per Click) model. But potentially the largest investment with all of them is time, for example:

  • Time to create and manage an online store
  • Time to create and manage a mobile marketing strategy
  • Time to manage a Facebook store
  • Time to create and manage eBay listings
  • Time to update comparison shopping site listings

It’s important to be able to determine the investment in each potential sales channel but more importantly, you need to be able to reduce the investment required to the smallest possible degree. If the investment is small enough, then all the sales channels described are worth the effort.  The key question you need to ask yourself is this: “How do I minimise investment for each channel? The answer is integration and automation. That is, you need to be able to integrate all your channels so they work as a seamless whole, and you need to be able to automate most of the processes around omni-channel retailing. For example:

  • Sharing product information between your online store and physical stores and warehouses
  • Automatically customising your online store for mobile users
  • Ensuring an item is automatically removed from your online store as soon as it is no longer available in any location that you draw stock from to fill online orders
  • Ensuring stock is reserved for your eBay listing and automatically cancelling an eBay listing as soon as the last available item is sold.
  • Generating and updating comparison shopping site listings on a regular basis, with little or no effort.

Creative Computing can help you establish all the sales channels you wish to operate in, and more importantly, provide all the technology to ensure all your sales channels are fully integrated and updates between them are automated – making sure you achieve maximum return on investment.

For more information, Contact us or phone Bernie Hogan on 1300 646 536.