What’s become clear about cross-channel retailing is that it’s no passing trend – it’s a fundamental change in the way retailers operate.

What’s become clear about cross-channel retailing is that it’s no passing trend – it’s a fundamental change in the way retailers operate. And while the term can start to sound a bit tired, the issues multichannel brings up show no signs of going away.

With retailers engaged in a middle or long-term effort to become completely multichannel, their paths are starting to diverge and will continue to do so over the coming years. This is clear in areas such as the supply chain. While some say the best approach is to merge online and store stocks into one large stock pile, others prefer to manage the two separately. But as customer journeys increasingly blend online and offline, a retailers’ supply chain will need to support this.

As multichannel systems and services develop, finding people with the necessary creativity and knowledge to manage it is getting harder. There are many talented staff who combine technical expertise with knowledge of operations, but there often aren’t enough. It’s a question of knowing where to look, judicious use of consultants, and strong development of in-house teams.

It’s only once a talented team is in place that a retailer can really start to think about which combination of mobile, online and store shopping will suit their customers. Customer journeys differ wildly between retailers, categories or even individuals – figuring out the right combination of resources to dedicate to each access point a shopper uses is a difficult task. The best option is to keep tabs on exactly what customers are doing – how many use smartphones, for instance, and what percentage of shoppers use kiosks in stores. No doubt these numbers will shift quickly as shopping habits keep changing, and careful tracking of how the access points are used will form the basis of a seamless multichannel operation, and help retailers make the right decisions as their journey develops.