The question about the effect of (technological) developments in the near future and the question about who will make use of them, why and in which way, are necessary, but relatively generic questions and are not specific for cross-media research. The actual developments do indicate that the question about the orchestration of all possibilities of, for example, a retailer communicating with a customer is one of increasing complexity and urgency (Van Vliet, 2008). It is expected that there will be further shifts in channel use in the coming years. In the Wolters study (2013), according to the experts the following channels will grow: social media (from 4% to 6% share), in-store online sales (from 5% to 8%) and generalist retailer webshops (from 15% to 19%) at the expense of brand and producer webshops (from 31% to 24%). By 2020, there will be greater use of tablets (from 22% to 33%) and Smartphones (from 10% to 21%) as sales devices, and this will be at the expense of laptops (from 32% to 15%) and desktops (from 31% to 10%). For fashion, by 2020 the estimated share of sales via a tablet is 26% for clothing and 31% for shoes and personal lifestyle. This shifting of channel use in the end is the question about the cross-media strategy of organisations, the orchestration of all possibilities of (media)channels.
Because of the multitude of communication channels stores can communicate with their customers in a variety of ways and at a variety of times (Rangaswamy & Van Bruggen, 2005; Van Vliet, 2008). Using several channels also allows the possibility of providing improved service via channel integration, such as online ordering and offline collection, or offline returns of products ordered online. Online orientation and offline buying – the so-callend webrooming – are undertaken by the vast majority of consumers (>80%); offline orientation and online buying – the so-called showrooming – is still considerably less, at just 44% for fashion (DigitasLBi, 2014). The Internet specifically has encouraged a cross-media approach because, for example, it has become very cost-effective to offer services and products via webshops. This service can result in greater customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, improved sales and larger market share. A cross-media approach has positive consequences for sales, consumers who use more channels buy more, they are more active, and they are more satisfied (Sharma & Mehrotra, 2007): “The average multi-channel consumer spends more than a single channel consumer. This is partly because multi-channel consumers have on average a higher income and spending pattern than other consumers. The exact increased amount in spending of multi-channel consumers ranges from two to ten times as much as single channel consumers.” (Van Ameijden et al., 2012, p. 6). However, the generality of this statement is not encountered in all empirical studies (Teerling et al., 2007) and Wolters (2013) for example finds that the Omni-channel customer does, in fact, spend more but is less loyal. Retailers do say though that the expected increase in sales is the most important reason for a multi-channel strategy (Van Ameijden et al., 2012).
Each channel has its type of consumers and its motivations for using that channel. Motivation for using a channel can be economic advantage, offering, convenience, social status, opportunity, freedom of choice, greater satisfaction, social interaction, etc. It is not just the motivation that can differ per channel; the loyalty displayed to a channel and the degree at which cross-buying occurs can also differ. The latter refers to the level of ‘reward’ for the consumer and the time that it takes (channel adaption duration) to switch from one channel to another. This switching pattern is a significant challenge to deal with (Weltevreden, 2012). The most commonly used ways of encouraging online visitors into a physical store are: 1) special offers online can also be used in the store, 2) the webshop looks like the store, 3) products ordered online are collected in the store. Conversely, the most commonly used ways of encouraging store visitors to go the webshop are: 1) URL visible in the store, 2) webshop and store look alike, 3) specials offers in the store can also be used online (Van Ameijden et al., 2012). Fashion businesses still make little use of online strategies for encouraging store visits (Boels & Weltevreden, 2013). An example of a similar looking webshop and physical store is Burberry, where the fundamental principle is that each element of the website is recreated offline (Williams, 2014).
Consumers who still only use one channel for gathering information and deciding to buy are becoming a minority (Stone et al., 2002; Rangaswamy & Van Bruggen, 2005; Teerling et al., 2007; DigitasLBi, 2014). However, harmonising and managing channels, for example, to link customer data across different channels appears to be a significant challenge. The result of this is that returning customers are not recognised (whilst, for example, they are entitled to a discount) or customers are bombarded with the same information from different channels. It is about the integration of cultures, technologies, marketing strategies, elements of the organisation and understanding different consumer patterns; not exactly a trivial matter (PWC, 2007).
Even more important: there are also negative ’drivers’ (Sharma & Mehrotra, 2007). Firstly, the revenue drops when multiple channels are used: the revenues from a new channel are often lower than from existing channels. After all, those existing channels have the ‘easy’ customers tied to them. Furthermore, the costs of the acquisition and the maintenance of a new channel place pressure on the earnings, also because channels are still often maintained separately as far as the organisation is concerned due to their own (technical) infrastructure, staffing and management (Stone et al., 2002; Rangaswamy & Van Bruggen, 2005). Secondly, there is ‘sales cannibalization’, in other words, the channels compete against each other for the total revenues. The most important way of preventing this is not to have price discrimination across different channels, to have complementary product ranges and to have an integrated stocking system (Van Ameijden et al., 2012). Thirdly, channels can also come into conflict with each other because they differ in the information about products and services, for example, or because it is not clear whether the same products can be bought online and offline (Rangaswamy & Van Bruggen, 2005). Price differences can also result in conflicts and undesirable behaviour from the perspective of the business. Consumers also make use of this by gathering extensive information and having the product demonstrated in the store and then buying via the Internet (showrooming).
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Boels, H. & J. Weltevreden. 2013. Onderzoek Online Readiness Modezaken. Amsterdam: Hogeschool van Amsterdam/CAREM.
DigitasLBi. 2014. Connected Commerce. Comparative Analysis. March 2014. Advance/DigitasLBi.
PWC. 2007. Convergence Monitor: The Digital Home. Understanding the customer in het new converged world. PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Rangaswamy, A. & Van Bruggen, G. 2005. Opportunities and challenges in multichannel marketing: an introduction to the special issue. Journal of Interactive Marketing, spring 2005, 19, 2, pp. 5-11.
Sharma, A. & Mehrotra, A. 2007. Choosing an optimal channel mix in multichannel environments. Industrial Marketing Management, 36, pp. 21-28.
Stone, M., Hobbs, M. & Khaleeli, M. 2002. Multichannel customer management: the benefits and challenges. Journal of Database Marketing, 10, 1, pp. 39-52.
Teerling, M., Huizingh, E. & Leeflang, P. 2007. De effectiviteit van informatieve websites. MAB, p. 429 – 437.
Van Ameijden, D., Huismans, J., Van Vulpen, J., Wenting, R., Krawczyk, A., & Weltevreden, J. 2012. Selling to the multichannel consumer. Strategic and operational challenges for multi-channel retailers. Amsterdam: PWC/Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
Van Vliet, H. 1991. 2008. Idola van de crossmedia. Utrecht: Hogeschool Utrecht.
Weltevreden, J. 2012. De evolutie van online winkelen in Nederland. Amsterdam: Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
Wolters, M. 2013. Hoe shopt uw klant in 2020? GfK expertonderzoek shopping 2020. GfK.