Handled the wrong way, in-store multichannel options are as likely to prove redundant for shoppers as the enduring myth that we all like to scan QR codes.
So just what does multi-channel mean in-store? Following some fairly trenchant feedback about the worth of the term omni-channel last week, it’s apparent that for most people in the industry the terms are broadly synonymous. But this does not actually mean greater clarity unfortunately. For some retailers, multi-channel may equate to browse and order points, click and collect counters and free wi-fi across the whole of the store, while for others it might amount to little more than a rather lonely looking iPad firmly anchored to a pillar.
And the better retailers, it would seem, work on the basis that multi-channel is not solely about getting shoppers online, but also means allowing the term to apply to the way in which staff interact with shoppers. Practically, this means that if you put a load of iPads in a store, the chances are pretty high that potential shoppers will do little more than look around and think ‘There are a lot of iPads in here’.
The iPads in the Liberty pop-up store at Westfield Stratford have now gone walkabout, replaced by more floral print covered merchandise as the Christmas gift-giving season hoves into sight and more important things take priority. In stores as different as M&S, DFS and Burberry however, there may be iPads aplenty and they have clearly formed part of the design brief when creating the store, but the staff also pack a tablet or two.
This means that when the mildly technophobic need help, technology is there as a true adjunct to both service and in-store experience, rather than something to be skirted around. Lone iPads may well turn out to be the QR code of 2012 - something that’s a good idea in principle, but which not everybody will feel either equipped or inclined to grapple with when they walk into a shop.
The plain and slightly uncomfortable truth is that it’s not what you’ve got, it really is what you do with it. Turning a store into, in effect, a terrestrial multi-channel hub can only really be achieved if it is made easy - which does not mean leaving shoppers to get on with it.
All of which presupposes that shoppers visit a store to do something other than traditional shopping. For bricks and mortar retailers, many will probably need to be seduced into becoming multi-channel users in-store. The available options may make life better, but only if they are accompanied by an appropriate level of service.