What is Multi-Channel Retailing?

Posted by Philip Huthwaite on August 21, 2023
Philip Huthwaite
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Understand what multi-channel retailing is

Modern marketing and retail professionals must move away from traditional single-channel retailing and embrace the spoke-and-wheel approach of multi-channel retailing. 
But how can you best understand and take advantage of multi-channel retailing - and what are the implications for eCommerce and brick-and-mortar businesses?

Flip open your phone or laptop, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the world of multi-channel retailing. Think about the last product you bought - how did you find it? Was it window shopping at a local store? Or did you stumble upon it while browsing through the infinite abyss of the internet?

The main goal is to maximise the chances of interacting with potential consumers and promoting your product or service wherever the consumer might be. Businesses can more effectively spread their message and encourage transactions by reaching out to customers on platforms they frequently use.

It makes sense - consumers' attention is spread across countless platforms and channels. Businesses can more effectively reach their target audience by marketing and selling products on multiple websites, mobile apps, social media accounts, etc.

Multi-channel retailing gives brands the ability to capture consumer attention in different ways and make it easier for customers to purchase products from any channel they choose.




How Does Multi-Channel Retailing Work?

Finding your ideal customer is only one half of the equation - the other half is remaining competitive in a crowded marketplace. It can often feel like moving through a crowded room, interrupting conversations, and trying to find a way in. Then you have to convince them to buy what you’re selling.

Multi-channel retailing helps make this process easier by allowing businesses to reach out to customers on multiple platforms. This includes creating product listings across different websites, setting up targeted ads on social media accounts, and enabling mobile payments for added convenience.

It also allows businesses to track customer behaviour across different channels and tailor their marketing messages accordingly. This helps businesses gain valuable insights into customer buying patterns and target customers with more personalised experiences.

  1. Understanding Your Audience: Before deciding which channels to use, you must first understand your target audience. Where do they spend their time? What platforms do they use most often?
  2. Selecting Channels: Depending on the target audience, a business may choose to advertise on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, utilise email marketing, set up physical retail stores, distribute through e-commerce sites, run TV or radio ads, etc.
  3. Consistent Branding: Regardless of the platform, it's vital that your brand remains consistent. This means similar messaging, design aesthetics, and tone across all channels.
  4. Tailored Content: While the brand messaging remains consistent, the content should be tailored to fit the platform. What works on Instagram might not be as effective on LinkedIn.
  5. Integrated Data and Analytics: Use data analytics tools to collect, analyse, and interpret customer data from each channel. This provides insights into which channels are most effective, when they're effective, and how customers are moving between them.
  6. Seamless User Experience: Ensure customers receive a seamless experience across all channels. For instance, the transition should be smooth if they start a purchase on a mobile app but finish it on a desktop.
  7. React and Adapt: Multi-channel marketing requires businesses to be agile. This might involve tweaking strategies based on a particular channel's performance or adjusting to customer feedback.
  8. Cross-Promotion: Use one channel to promote another. For instance, a TV ad might encourage viewers to visit a brand's social media page, or an email might promote an in-store event.
  9. Maintaining Engagement: Engagement is key in multi-channel marketing. Engaging content, promotions, and interactions encourage customers to stay connected to the brand across various platforms.
  10. Evaluation and Optimisation: Regularly assess the performance of your multi-channel strategy and make necessary adjustments. Which channels are driving the most ROI? Which need more attention or even discontinuation?

These steps are all inclusive of creating a strong multi-channel retailing strategy.

And when you get it right? The benefits can be incredibly valuable.


What Are Some Benefits of Multi-Channel Retailing for Businesses?

Enhances the customer experience

Multi-channel retailing enables businesses to cater to the varying preferences of consumers. Some shoppers may prefer purchasing in-store, while others prefer online shopping.

By offering multiple platforms, businesses can ensure that their customers have the flexibility to choose their preferred method, making their shopping experience more pleasant and efficient.

When you can provide a seamless experience from start to finish, customers are more likely to become loyal and build an emotional connection with your brand.


happy customer


Increases revenue

Multi-channel retailing also maximises a business's sales potential. Rather than relying on a single channel, different channels can be used to reach and target potential customers.

This is particularly true for online stores, which can draw in more customers with the help of effective digital marketing strategies and leverage multiple channels to promote their products.

Now imagine if you can combine the traditional sales channel with your online store? That could potentially expand your customer base, increase brand awareness, and significantly boost your bottom line.


Increases customer reach

It's a globalised world - consumers are everywhere. They're not just walking into physical stores; they're also shopping on websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, and even through voice-activated devices.

Multi-channel retailing ensures that businesses can be present wherever their customers are. It opens doors to wider demographic segments, various geographic locations, and even different time zones, ensuring that the business can capture and cater to a diverse customer base.

For example, with multi-channel retailing, a business in the UK can effectively reach out to potential customers in the US and other countries. This is especially helpful for businesses that are looking to expand their market share beyond the borders of their home country.


Allows more insight and analytics capabilities

Operating across various channels gives businesses access to tons of data. Each channel provides unique insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and purchasing patterns. You'll snag user buying habits from TikTok, responses to emails from your mailing lists, and more.




By integrating data from multiple sources, businesses can gain a comprehensive view of their customer base. This, in turn, allows for:

  • More informed decision-making
  • Better inventory management
  • Personalised marketing strategies
  • Improved forecasting

Analytics derived from multi-channel retailing can be a goldmine of information, driving both operational efficiency and innovative strategies. But that isn't to say there aren't any challenges with the approach...


What Are the Challenges to Using Multi-Channel Retailing?

A Lack of Transparency in Pricing

Multi-channel retailing can sometimes lead to discrepancies in pricing across different platforms. A product might be priced differently online than in a physical store due to various promotions or strategies specific to each channel.

These inconsistencies can confuse customers and can lead to a perception of unfairness - even if it's unintentional. It's essential to monitor and adjust the prices of products across each platform to ensure transparency in pricing.

One way to avoid this dilemma is by utlising a dynamic pricing solution that allows you to update prices across all channels at once - staying ahead of customer expectations.


It's an Expensive Investment

Establishing and maintaining multiple retail channels requires a significant upfront - and potentially ongoing - investment.

This includes the costs of technology infrastructure, training staff to handle each channel effectively, logistics and inventory management tailored to each channel and the marketing costs associated with promoting each platform.

For smaller businesses, the initial investment required to set up and integrate multiple channels can be prohibitive, making it challenging to compete with larger players who have the necessary resources. That's why it's key to partner with an experienced multi-channel retailing partner that can help streamline your operations and simplify the process.


Cross Channel Services

Managing services and promotions across different channels can be complex.
For instance, an online offer might not be feasible to provide in-store, or a return policy might differ from platform to platform. This can lead to miscommunication and customer dissatisfaction.

Retailers face a challenge in a multi-channel environment to ensure consistency in terms of services, promotions, and customer support across all channels. Rather than trying to manage each channel individually, it's important to develop an integrated approach that simplifies the process and provides a consistent customer experience.


Product Availability

Inventory management becomes more intricate in a multi-channel setup. A product available online might be out of stock in a physical store, or vice versa.

Synchronising inventory across all channels in real-time is challenging, and discrepancies can lead to missed sales opportunities or customer disappointment. Plus, predicting demand accurately for each channel and allocating stock accordingly can be a complex task, which, if not managed correctly, can lead to overstocking or stockouts.

However, you can overcome this with a robust tracking and inventory management system. This will help you keep track of stock levels across all channels, predict customer behaviour, and ensure the right level of inventory at the right time in each store.


Here are some examples of companies successfully implementing multi-channel strategies

While reading about how multi-channel retailing works is one thing, it's another to see it in action. To illustrate this approach’s potential, let’s look at some companies that have successfully implemented multi-channel strategies.


Argos: Pioneering the Omni-Channel Revolution



In a transformative move for its brand, Argos unveiled the "Get Set Go Argos" initiative, a clear pivot towards an omni-channel digital retail landscape.

Not only did they choose avant-garde advertising channels like cinemas and high-visibility national billboards, but they also brought innovation to their UK brick-and-mortar stores. This included rapid 60-second collection options for online orders and integrating iPad stations for a digitised in-store shopping experience.

Argos stands out by flawlessly merging the online and offline worlds, ensuring they address the contemporary consumer's expectation for an efficient, interactive, and convenient shopping journey. This harmony between physical and digital showcases their understanding of the evolving retail landscape.

To remain relevant and competitive, eCommerce businesses should think about harmonising online and in-store experiences. This might mean offering express in-store pickups for online orders, deploying in-store digital kiosks, or providing virtual shopping assistants to guide online buyers.


John Lewis: A Masterclass in Multi-Platform Engagement



Taking a calculated risk, John Lewis premiered their holiday advert, "Bear and the Hare", at a cinema and subsequently on YouTube, ahead of its television debut.
But they didn’t stop there. To further deepen audience engagement, they launched a YouTube competition, challenging fans to create their rendition of the advert’s soundtrack, offering visibility in a special Christmas Day advert.

John Lewis's approach isn't just about broadcasting content; it's about creating interactive narratives. Their clever sequencing of the advert's launch ensured maximum digital buzz and traditional media anticipation.

The result? A surge in social media interactions, including Facebook statuses, tweets, and a flood of YouTube views.

For an eCommerce business aiming to maximise engagement, consider prioritising digital platforms for campaign launches. This approach taps into a broader audience quicker and fosters direct interaction. Additionally, crowdsource content or feedback to make your audience feel like valued participants, not just passive viewers.


Launch Your eCommerce Into The Multi-Channel Retail Realm

By now, it should be clear that multi-channel retailing is a powerful tool for businesses wanting to take their eCommerce operations to the next level. The potential to reach customers in multiple ways has never been higher, so why not take advantage of this?

At BlackCurve, we offer eCommerce capabilities that allow you to easily monitor competitor pricing and ensure your multi-channel performance remains consistently high.
By joining forces with us, you can be confident your eCommerce business will remain ahead of the curve. Demo our solution today and experience the power of multi-channel retailing for yourself.

If you want to find out more about how other eCommerce businesses are using multi-channel retailing, head over to our blog where our experts share their insights and advice on this - and many more - topics!

Topics: multi-channel

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