Consumer shopping habits are in a continuous state of change, that much is certain. With the rise of digital and its wave of transformations, consumer good companies are constantly in need of new and innovative strategies in order to capture coveted demographics. Retaining market share, or even increasing it at this juncture requires a great deal of strategic thought and a keen understanding of what the current consumer shopping trends.

One of the most important trends that will continue to dominate in 2018 is building multi-channel capabilities. Assuming that consumers will only undertake the buying journey from a single channel is, unfortunately, a dying thought.

With more devices and different ways to connect with a company, consumers are often seeking alternative channels during their buying journey – and they expect consumer good companies to adapt to these alternative means. This means adopting strategies that react and meet these demands through broad concepts such as competitive pricing, promotions, and assortments.

Booz&Co recently released a report that outlines these concepts as well as recommendations on how companies can act on these trends and build strong multi-channel capabilities. Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

Key Takeaway #1: Define Your Strategy

One of the mistakes consumer good companies tend to make is building out multi-channel capabilities without thinking about what is actually needed, or what pain points consumers are experiencing that are specific to the company itself.

Use current data and infrastructure as the first point in defining a channel strategy. The report’s main recommendation in this regard is to craft a strategy that takes into account customer segmentation (i.e. enhanced and focused customer targeting), the channel journey as well as incentives that are designed to reward multi-channel sales.

Ultimately, the strategy needs to put the consumer need front and center, and evaluate that with the channels that are currently available and where the gaps lie. The report emphasizes how important it is to consider elements such as preferences and spend potential when building a “differentiated multi-channel experience for each customer segment.”

Segmentation is important, but so is actually creating a seamless channel journey that makes sense to the end-user and leaves them feeling like the experience was efficient – not cumbersome. Information needs to available across channels, and it must be accessible to employees as well in order to create an efficient and seamless buying and post-sale journey.

Key Takeaway #2: Invest in Online

While yes, strategies must be crafted according to company needs but one thing is certain: the overall strategy must take into account investing in online. That channel is fast becoming the main consumer touchpoint and companies that lead the charge in improving their online channels are the ones that see success.

The report outlines a few reasons why it is so important to invest in online capabilities. It is the fastest way consumers are able to access information about products, services, and complete transactions. Moreover, consumers also frequent online channels when searching for key logistical information such as contact information, locations or important numbers.

Consumers are going to continue to demand an optimized online channel that allows them to access information quickly and complete purchases in a single channel. Online channels must be designed for optimum efficiency on the consumer end in order to facilitate easier information access as well as transactional abilities.

Furthermore, online capabilities must also be built out so they can capture key customer data. With “clickstream transparency and rich Web analytics,” companies can improve the overall customer experience while capturing data that can enable better segmentation across channels, according to the report.

Key Takeaway #3: Better integration with IT and CRM

Designing a strategy and investing in online is not a fruitful endeavor unless your IT infrastructure and CRM are rock-solid to handle increasing amounts of consumer load and data. IT infrastructure needs to be better integrated with CRM strategy, according to the report, and allow for better functionality overall.

The report states that CRM IT architecture must be able to handle the “transformation from vertical, single-channel operations to true horizontal business processes that deliver cross-channel integration.”

While this might sound intimidating at first, it does not need to be. It just means that your IT must match your CRM’s capabilities, and both should be working in tandem in order to deliver a great cross-channel integration as well as allowing you to collect user to further improve that integration over time.

The report does not recommend upending current IT infrastructure but improving it going forward, in order build a foundation that is far more flexible to account for different channels, CRM, and other key data. When improving IT infrastructure, it is important to consider if those solutions can improve seamlessness for the consumer while still collecting necessary data for increased “customer- and segment-specific channel experiences” across different customer touchpoints.

Key Takeaway #4: Watch the competition

Consumer-based industries are the ones that are most susceptible to changes in the digital landscape. To that end, it makes sense to watch what your competitors are doing and evaluate whether you need to implement similar measures.

Companies across different consumer industries are continuously experimenting with different multi-channel strategies to hit their sweet spot. Think of it as building inspiration for your own multi-channel strategy by picking and choosing what seems to work for others and see if it will also work for you.

In the regard, the report recommends looking beyond your own industry to see how others are adapting to these trends in order to develop out of the box solutions. Each industry, whether it is banking or automotive, is looking for different ways to provide a cutting-edge solution to consumers who are increasingly demanding seamless multi-channel experiences

One of the benefits of a new digital landscape is that everybody in the market is learning – and that means best practices continue to grow and evolve. This is currently a market that is dominated by trial and error, but however, the errors can often be costly. Implementing multi-channel strategies in a successful, cost-effective manner means carefully understanding what options are available and what makes the most sense for your company as the initial experiments.

In summary, there are many answers to ways you can increase sales and manage delivery operations, the above are important takeaways to watch for.  Gain access to our library of articles on our resources page on www.ivymobility.com