First there was multi-channel. Then there was omni-channel. And now there is cross-channel. You know that a market is in a process of change when terms are being coined so rapidly.
And there is no doubt that retailers have been struggling to keep up with the rapid development of online shopping – not just on a desktop PC but increasingly from mobile phones and other devices.
The UK has been leading this development in Europe, but right across the major European markets online buyers are growing by about 17 per cent a year.
A new study by the BearingPoint Institute argues that retailers are often paying a heavy price to serve these developing markets, because consumers expect bargain basement prices and unlimited choice when they shop online.
And, it points out, retail sales across the Eurozone have fallen nine per cent since 2007.
BearingPoint talked to more than 100 senior executives and strategies in the European retail sector and concluded that “the story across European retail is one of a failure to integrate and co-ordinate”.
Kay Manke, partner at BearingPoint and author of the study, warns: “Today’s consumers are increasingly cross-channel in terms of their purchasing behaviours and are never going to return to the pre-digital era. The stark truth is, even as retail itself transforms, retailers that rely exclusively on ‘footfall’ are already staring into the abyss.”
But, it also highlights the risks of allowing different channels to operate independently of each other – the goal must be to ensure integration and coordination of different channels. There are some high profile examples of retailers that are already doing this.
Whether you call it cross-channel or omni-channel is less important than ensuring you get the supply chain structure right.