The YouGov take: retail distribution

Mind the mult-channel gap: Tim Britton, chief executive of UK YouGov, talks about retail distribution

Simplicity is rarely an accident of design. Behind every elegant product or process a battle has been fought; in which simplicity has triumphed over complexity.

Just how many multi-channel retailers can genuinely claim to have mastered the art of simplicity? The truth is very few have delivered a
simple and coherent cross-channel experience. Some have cannibalised existing channels (by shifting volume from stores to online), while others have failed to appreciate the nuanced way today’s multi-channel shoppers transition between stores and other channels.

Research conducted by YouGov’s retail team found that multichannel shoppers are still falling into the gaps between channels and retailers are not using the high benchmarks from one channel to drive improvements in others. Doing so is perhaps a tall, logistical order; but it is one that many consumers expect. Three pieces of feedback from multi-channel customers support this thesis:

  • 78% of multi-channel shoppers found price offers available online which were not subsequently available when they went in-store. Whilst the commercial case for this is clear; better communication of the rationale is required as it is not always understood by consumers and can create mistrust of the retailer.
  • 75% of multi-channel shoppers want the same quality of customer advice provided online as is in-store. A challenge to be sure, but online does not have to be a completely self service environment and consumers know this.
  • 49% of multi-channel shoppers find the returns process for online purchases more complicated than the in-store equivalent. Given the numbers of consumers that do not find this process more complex, it is an issue that some retailers are clearly getting right, whilst others struggle.

In a situation of multiple customer touch-points, separate channel teams, disparate customer data and huge operational complexity, retailers need a deep and continuous understanding of customers’ channel psychology (their needs and expectations), behaviours and purchasing journeys. To ensure their channel strategy is on track, retailers need to ask a number of questions of their multi-channel execution:

  1. Do my customers feel they are receiving unique cross-channel benefits?
  2. Which specific incremental customer behaviour is my current channel mix driving and what is the growth potential?
  3. What are the implications of channel psychology and behaviour for range, pricing, promotions and customer service?

In short, if complexity is the starting point and simplicity your destination then let the customer be your guide.

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