When Microsoft announced they were opening a flagship store in New York City, just blocks away from the iconic Apple Store, they did more than send a message to their rival competitor. They solidified the retail trend towards having a solid multichannel presence, marrying the convenience of online shopping with that in-person experience where customers can look, feel, and buy.
In the summer of 2013, one of the largest fashion retailers, H&M, began selling their pieces online in the U.S. for the first time, having launched their U.K. store in 2010. One year later they saw their year-over-year net profits rise by 25% as a result of U.S., France, and Spain e-commerce revenue. Keeping that momentum going, the retailer will extend its web presence into Italy and China by the end of this year and launch eight to ten new online stores in 2015.
With global e-commerce sales projected to increase by 20.1% in 2014, or $1.5 trillion, it’s no wonder traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are moving online to embrace a multichannel system strategy.
So why is there also a trend in the other direction, with retailers establishing a physical presence? Microsoft isn’t the only major player that seeks to “engage with our customers and partners in new and innovative ways," as stated by Microsoft’s corporate vice president, David Porter.
Amazon sent shock waves through the business world with news of the global online retailer’s acquisition of the entire 12-story building at 7 West 34th Street in New York City, whose tenants include Mango and Express stores and business offices. There’s still speculation as to whether Amazon will open a physical retail store, with no official announcement as of yet, but it would make perfect business sense.
Although the e-commerce sales forecasts are impressive, they still account for a smaller percentage of overall retail sales, be it in the U.S., the U.K., or globally.
“There’s a growing realization that you can’t force customers to shop in just one way,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of retail strategy at Accenture, in the New York Times story. “We’re in a world where the retailer can no longer dictate the shopping experience.”
“It makes sense to have a physical showroom to let people see Amazon’s hardware products, particularly with the Kindle priced at $100,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners, in the same article. “You want to touch and see and feel these things.”
“What is interesting is that it is the small and medium-sized merchants who have been leading the way here,” says Henry Morland, Chief Product Officer for Brightpearl, “and with the control that modern retail management software offers, these small independent merchants can offer the same products simultaneously in store and across multiple online channels. Their growth opportunities are as good as, or better than the big guys.”
Henry Morland, Chief Product Officer for Brightpearl believes small to medium-sized retailers can enjoy the same multichannel sales growth opportunities as the big guys. “By deploying a multichannel system, you can provide your customers with the best shopping experience possible, whether they’re in your shop, buying from your website, on eBay or Amazon. You don’t need the budget or staff of an H&M or Microsoft to do this.”
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