High Street fights back: 65 per cent of retailers believe the in-store experience defines their brand

Multichannel is the key word on all retailers' lips this year - but despite the hype, traditional in-store shopping remains King of the consumer, according to new research commissioned by customer insight agency, SMG. The study reveals that 65 per cent of retailers believe their in-store experience defines their brand, and over half say it is the most profitable channel. 70 per cent of retailers believe it delivers the highest level of customer service. However, customer service levels across different channels vary, according to research findings.

The research of over 100 senior level decision makers across the retail sector offers renewed hope to the high street amidst cries of 'doom and gloom' following a tough few quarters experienced by many retailers.  

98 per cent per cent say multichannel is vital, but misaligned approaches are damaging brand identity
While in-store shopping stays top of the charts, a massive 98 per cent of retailers recognise that a broader multichannel strategy is still vital to remain competitive in the current market. A growing concern amongst retailers is the lack of uniformity delivered across the channels and how this could impact the overall business strategy. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents stated their reason for pursuing a multichannel strategy is to drive an increase in sales.

Over two-thirds of retailers admit that their multichannel strategies currently do not deliver the same customer experience across all channels. However, 66 per cent recognise that such inconsistency affects customer loyalty but this realisation is not being played out in practice.

Jeremy Michael, managing director, SMG UK, commented: "To operate the most effective multichannel strategy, retailers need to develop an omnichannel approach. This requires the alignment of multichannel solutions to deliver a consistent customer experience that supports brand values and creates loyal customers that not only return, but also recommend. Without this the opportunity to create absolute loyalty amongst consumers, is falling flat and jeopardising the potential for return sales."

Two-thirds of retailers fail to track their customer habits and so miss out on vital revenue
Retailers are also failing to take advantage of the insight a multichannel approach provides and are missing out on vital opportunities to increase revenue. The majority of respondents (79 per cent) recognised that using multichannel data to track customer behavior would help them to understand customer purchasing decisions and 65 per cent recognise they can use such data to nurture customer loyalty. Yet, in reality less than two-thirds actively practiced tracking of their customers.

Michael continues "In order to capitalise on multichannel as a means to drive sales, retailers need an in-depth understanding of their customers to fine-tune their strategies and deliver a high level of customer service. By using data to track customer behaviour retailers have access to vital details pertaining to the customer's purchasing history, requirements and expectations. Using this they can deliver the perfect customer service, tailored to their feedback."

Commenting on the research, Jo Molineux, head of multichannel at Republic, said: "At Republic we pride ourselves on developing a single, aggregated view of all our customers.  Our unified approach enables us to understand what they want allowing us to deliver a seamless experience across all channels. With our multichannel strategy we are able to reach a wider and engaged audience, tailoring the services available on each channel to customer expectation. "

The research, carried out with Retail Bulletin on behalf of SMG, was conducted with over 100 British retailers between December 2011 and February 2012.

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