By Aimee Chanthadavong

Research by the Australian Centre for Retail Studies (ACRS) at Monash University shows that smartphone usage is playing a crucial role in the way retailers are incorporating social media into their multichannel strategy.

The ‘multichannel and social media: the state of play 2011’ report suggests that retailers who engage consumers effectively across multiple channels including new technologies will earn a greater share of their customer’s wallet as 58 per cent of Australians are now multichannel shoppers. This result is an increase from 49 per cent in 2010 and they are expected to spend between three to six times more than store-only shoppers.

According to the survey, approximately 48 per cent of Australians purchase online at least once a month, with seven per cent purchasing a product once every week.

Nick Spooner, CEO Salmat Digital, told RetailBiz that it’s time for retailers to get behind what consumers are demanding.

“Consumers are the main drivers behind this growing trend towards multichannel shopping. They are embracing the technological shift. They are demanding choice.  The fact that these multichannel consumers shop more, spend more and display more loyalty should be a powerful incentive for retailers to execute a relevant and innovative multichannel strategy

The report found email, social media and mobile are amongst the most popular ways retailers communicate with consumers. 55 per cent of Australians have registered to receive emails from retailers and 14 per cent opt in to receive communications via SMS.
Furthermore, 14 per cent of consumers engage with retailers through an iPhone application and an impressive 22 per cent engage with retailers through social media.

“Retailers need to cast their net wide and can no longer solely rely on just your bricks and mortar store to sustain their business.  To be a successful retailer you need to build a multichannel presence to ensure that you meet the needs of all your customers in the most effective way,” Spooner said.

“The major pitfall to avoid is being seduced by technology and discounting tried and tested mediums. All the various avenues to reach customers are equally relevant and just as vital. Whether these include the retail store, printed catalogues, an e-commerce website, customer loyalty programs, mobile applications, or a social media community – becoming a successful multi-channel retailer means adopting a flexible, channel-agnostic approach.

“The golden rule for retailers is to integrate the various channels while keeping the execution unique for each.  Simply running multiple channels in isolation from each other will confuse and frustrate customers

“It’s all about giving the customer a choice on how they engage with your brand and let them decide on what channel they will interact with you.”

Consumer preferences for electronic and clothing/footwear goods revealed the highest multichannel engagement with consumers using up to eight different channels for pre-purchase research to purchase and after sales support.

The ACRS research also found that the multichannel shopping behaviour is typically adopted by younger shoppers, so the trend is expected to increase rapidly in future.

“Multichannel is no longer a buzzword, it’s how consumers live today and it is here to stay. Not only are we seeing actions and eyeballs, but now the industry is seeing the dollars follow. Embracing multichannel is critical for Australian businesses that want to succeed in an ever-increasing competitive environment,” Spooner said.

“Mobile and social media are two of the key trends in retail, with mobile recognised as the ‘glue’ between online and in-store. Retailers must be nimble and adapt their strategies so they match the preferred methods of contact that the consumers want.”