Multichannel retailing will become the cornerstone of retailing success in the coming years and retailers that ignore the trend risk going out of business.
That was the message given to retailers by the IBM Global Services US managing principal for business innovation services, Natt Fry, at the Retail Business Technology conference held in Sydney last week.
"In the US the Internet is a business requirement for the retailer because people use the Internet before they decide which retailer to shop with," Fry said in his keynote speech at the conference.
"The day is coming when not having a multichannel structure could result in a retailer going out of business."
IBM's studies in the US have shown almost half the consumer population uses a combination of the Internet and bricks and mortar stores to purchase products. For information intensive products, only around a third of customers used the store exclusively.
"Typically the store is not a good place for product information. It is getting harder to find employees, let alone one who know a lot about the product," Fry said.
Fry said customers tend to spend more money across multichannel retailing than through a single channel. Increasingly, customers want product availability, the ability to customise their products, and a personalised experience online. This is borne out by growth categories in the US, including customised appliances and build-your-own PCs.
With the retailing market dominated by a handful of key players in Australia, it can be difficult for smaller retailers to embrace the multichannel sales strategy. However, this will change, Fry said.