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The future of retail

The multichannel shop is the future of independent retail, and with simple new till technology available now, it doesn't have to be difficult to achieve.

An increasing body of research shows that consumers already consider themselves as multichannel shoppers and simply expect retailers to be selling through multiple channels.

  1. A study into consumer shopping habits by Sterling Commerce shows the importance of multichannel retail. Of the 1,000 consumers questioned, 80% said that it is important to have a choice of shopping in store, by telephone, or online.
  2. Additionally, research by ComScore into multichannel shopping reveals that once consumers have started shopping online, they nearly unanimously expect retailers will support multichannel shopping. In fact, 97 percent of consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across online and offline channels.
  3. Research by Zendor in 2006 found that 80% of UK consumers consider themselves multichannel shoppers.

Clearly consumers are developing strong multichannel shopping habits and the good news is that retailers who offer a multichannel shopping experience can expect to achieve an increase in average spend per customer as well as reaching to a wider audience.

Yet, this does not mean independents have to become web experts, they just need a multichannel till system that allows them to sell through multiple channels with minimal change to their working practices.

The good news is this technology is already here. Intelligent Retail started working on the multichannel till in 2001 and launched it in 2005. Over 140 retailers in the UK use it today.

The Connect multichannel till allows a retailer to sell any item in their shop across many channels all at once. This is the future of retail. A shop owner can now, in a single click, reach to different markets whilst using just one stock control system.

Selling in the shop and online fits seamlessly together. Customers in the shop require immediate attention. But there are always busy and quiet times, real peaks and troughs where staff may not be utilised 100% effectively. Online customers expect to wait. So in the quiet times the shop assistants can deal with the online customers. It's a perfect fit. Also as the shop has a ready supply of stock and staff, they can offer superb shipping times, usually same day, thus delivering a superb service to online customers.

Suddenly the retail business is using staff and resources so much more effectively. And of course this has a direct impact on profits.

Often I am asked; "But is there any opportunity for smaller retailers to sell online?". My answer is; "Of course there is, endless opportunity in fact!". Online is the world's marketplace. We have seen time and again how niche retailers beat the superstores and corporations. It happens in the high street and offline. Others think that the manufacturers will go direct using the online channel.

A specialist retailer will have multiple supply partners and an eye for the right ranges and they hold stock. These retailers are perfectly positioned to open a phenomenally useful online shop to present a niche set of products to the market. These niche sites work superbly. For reasons I won't go into here, they are perfectly suited to respond well in the search engines, and also in Pay Per Click advertising. So I am very upbeat about the future of independent retail, but as in all industries, businesses have to change, even if it's just a little bit.

By David Mackley, MD Intelligent Retail.