Do it the Independent Consumer Business (ICB) Way.
Having the ability to provide customers with multiple ways to make purchases is very important in today’s world of technology. The industry calls it “Multi- Channel selling. However, like so many of the technology terms we hear about, there are multiple definitions.
The one we understand and use in our business applications will depend on a number of factors; what is the time period that it is being referred to, what is the type of customer base, what is the size of the business and is it being used to refer to the consumer side or the vendor side of the business.
So, for this discussion, we want to make sure that we are all on the same page. This will help to maximize the benefits and understanding of this critical tool for the Independent Consumer Business owners.
Generally, Multi-Channel selling means that you are going to give your customers the ability to purchase and/or pay for their items in more than one way. From the ICB stand point we will define the processes of Multi-Channel Sales as:
Brick and Mortar Obviously, this is the tried and true way you have grown your business over the years. However, while today many other selling methods exist, we want to always remember to focus on the brick and mortar method as we develop other related Multi-Channel methods for our customer because in person selling is what has given you the most successful occasion to relate with your customers and provide superior service and support.
Online Stores/e-Commerce A website’s design is going to determine if and to what level you offer your customers items for purchase online. Initially, you set up your website to give an online
presence so your local customers are able to learn more about your business and product offerings as well as how to find you. As time moves forward you then improve on your site to provide more detailed information about individual sales departments and the key employees running those areas as well as setting up “loss leaders” items for sale which your customers can purchase and pay online but must come into the store to pick the items up there by keeping the so important “in person” selling.
As an ICB owner, whether you try to go to a full e-commerce site will be determined based on a number of other factors. You may have items, which are unique to your store and those items could be sold to a bigger audience than just the local customer base. You may have a product base which requires refills or regularly replaceable items.
The key factor is that you expand your website beyond just basic information to some form of multi-channel selling. Your customers are going to expect it.
Email Sales Campaigns Sending emails to your customers which offer them special items for sale is a simple and inexpensive way to introduce your multi- channel selling. It is an important step within the multi-channel selling process. The first and obvious step is to come up with a method of getting your customer’s email address. Offering them a special onetime purchase discount if they provide you their email address is a great way to get started, and you may be surprised how many of your customers will gladly give you it. Once you have developed the email base starting your next multi- channel selling tool will be much easier. Email sales and marketing does work.
Social Media Sales Twitter is only one of many social media ways of introducing multi- channel sales. After you develop a following, then using Twitter, you can be tweeting sales offerings. Not only Twitter but Facebook and many other social media sites will allow you to give your customers other purchasing opportunities at a very simple and low cost.
Catalog Sales/Flyers While you very well may have been selling in this fashion, with a bit of tweaking, you can use this method to either expand your product offering or develop a customer transition program to move them from yesterday to today. The key is, do not just drop this method of multi- channel selling because of the high cost and outdated format. Find a way for existing customers to make the transition. They will love you for it.
So, as you read these multi-channel selling examples, you may very well ask yourself is it selling or is it marketing. The answer is, for an ICB, it is really any opportunity to do both simultaneously. It is important to give the customer all the opportunities to have multi-channel selling to help make their purchases, but we also want to take full advantage of multi-channel selling and combine the marketing opportunities. We call this “Multi Technology Opportunities.”
There are many other ways that you could offer multi-channel selling. However, as an ICB, we believe the ones mentioned are the most effective. They allow you to take full advantage of the opportunity offering your customers great service while still keeping within a system which provides you an affordable as well as and profitable technology solution.
You need multi-channel selling, but do it the ICB way for maximum benefits to your bottom line.