Some of the best examples of multichannel retailing can be seen in specialist retailers, many of whom are well ahead of the market on their digitally enabled propositions.

DIY retailer Screwfix and toy chain The Entertainer are two well-known examples of market-leading speciality retailers, but there are interesting ideas at others as well.

At Majestic Wine, for instance, nearly all online orders are fulfilled by stores, and the website is able to access what stock is held in local stores. By putting their postcode into the website, shoppers can tailor the products they’re seeing to what is available locally. This was rolled out in June 2013.

The retailer’s whole business model is centred around its stores – its recommendation engine, for instance, was built using staff recommendations.

It has manually built a database of 300,000 suggestions by asking staff what they would suggest to a customer based on what she is already buying. This means the recommendation engine doesn’t suggest equivalent products, but complimentary ones.

There are plans to make use of this data in store as well, as well as on the new mobile app.

Plus, Majestic records 90% of store transactions against customer details, making a single customer view of transaction data across the channels more achievable. The overall aim for Majestic is to use technology to make its offer stand out against the grocers, by using expertise and the human touch to make shoppers feel they are getting something more.

Thinking creatively using technology

Another specialist retailer, footwear seller Schuh, has taken a slightly different approach, and focuses on removing points of friction from the customer journey.

As ecommerce director Sean McKee has pointed out, customers have a lot of choice on where they might buy a pair of Converse – the retailer is focusing on making it easy to shop with them as a result.

Click-and-collect and next-day delivery play a role in this – its next-day service cut off is 10pm and only costs £4.99, while its one-hour click-and-collect service is free.

Schuh has also rolled out mobile point of sale devices to store staff so that payment can be taken quickly on the shopfloor.

Specialists rarely have the resource to invest in expensive digital toys or brand new technologies, and have done two things as a result. Firstly, they have to research their customer journeys thoroughly and continue to do so as they evolve. Secondly, they have learned to think creatively and use technology to solve sticking points. It’s a tough market for many specialist retailers, but the best are using technology to stand out.