Everywhere Shoppers and the importance of multi-channels

The evolution of the purchasing paths of modern consumers with shops, on-line, mobile and social media

In the era of internet and electronic trade, consumers’ purchasing behaviour is evolving rapidly and changing profoundly; the volume and frequency of on-line purchases is continuously increasing and consumers are more and more connected and digital. 60% of the Italian population (31.7 million1) has adopted multi-channel behaviour involving the different stages of the purchasing process – from the search for information to the comparison of products and services, and reading criticisms through to the purchase of the product or service.

There are two large families have been indicated among those using the internet – the InfoShoppers, whose only aim is to collect information, and the eShoppers, people who not only gain information but also buy regularly on-line. A further sector of highly evolved consumers is growing significantly among the latter – the Everywhere Shoppers (6.6 million but growing rapidly), made up of people who connect at any time and with any device, including mobile ones, using all the touchpoints available.

Everywhere Shoppers expect to interact with the brand at any time through multiple communication channels (website, mobile Apps, shops, social media, Customer Care, etc.), to pass from one channel to another channel quickly and simply, to receive the same services and same messages, irrespective of the channel (real or virtual) in a single, consistent purchasing experience adapted to their individual needs. So they are consumers who use all the touchpoints with a “seamless, anywhere and anytime” logic and who show a strong tendency to a continuous relationship with other consumers and the brand.

In this scenario, multi-channels are thus a strategic aim for companies facing the difficult challenge of satisfying these increasingly demanding consumers through the construction of a Customer Journey that optimises the customer’s experience at all times and through all touchpoints. The design of an effective Customer Journey is becoming even more important for companies like Mondadori Retail which has a capillary network of real shops throughout most of Italy flanked by new digital channels. Historically, almost all these retailers started as chains of real shops progressively flanked over the years by an on-line communication and sales site, social platforms and Apps. The history and culture of these companies therefore derives from a traditional approach based on the ‘physical’ relationship with the customer and the transition to a multi-channel model, where the digital component has taken on an increasingly relevant role, which is often critical as it means a profound evolution of the business model placing the consumer at the centre of all company strategy.

Many consumers still attribute great value to face-to-face interaction with the brand, the relationship of trust with shop staff and the suggestions they can make, as long as the company is able to integrate this value into a continuous, consistent purchasing experience through all channels. Therefore, a truly multi-channel Customer Journey, where the customer is always recognised as an individual unit, communication is consistent and the services offered are personalised and easy to use, has to be constructed to make the best of this opportunity.

Mondadori Store received the Innovation Award 2016 at SMAU, being listed as one of the Italian excellences which have stood out as a model of innovation and digital transformation. It is a recognition of the path implemented which has promoted integration between the digital channel and more than 600 bookshops in Italy through the research and development of products, services and multi-channel events including:

  • a digital shop window for every shop on the website with pages and contents personalised for each point of sale, oriented to the generation of traffic at the shop;
  • a Facebook page for each shop, animated by the bookseller with original contents but with standard graphics and uniform communications;
  • purchasing paths integrated between the real and digital channels with the option of collecting the products purchased on-line in the shop (Pick Up Points), checking the availability of a product at a shop on-line and booking it, subsequently buying it in the shop (Book and Buy), ordering a product chosen from a catalogue of almost 10 million titles in a shop and collecting it from the same shop, and have a book chosen from a vast digital bookshop printed on demand;
  • interactive events that can be enjoyed not only directly in the shop but also through all the communication channels of the network and many engagements in the social media such as, for example, competitions and Facebook live.

The ideal Customer Journey should, therefore, break down all the barriers between the different channels so that the customer is always recognised and their needs understood and all the purchasing options used irrespective of the channel, 24/24 and always with the highest level of service. Purchasing paths are increasingly designed around the needs of customers for whom the distinctions between the real and digital worlds are disappearing. Companies which are able to interpret this evolution in customers’ needs best and satisfy them are destined to earn their loyalty and choice in purchases.

Note
1. Research data from the Multi-Channel Observatory 2017, Polytechnic of Milan

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Stefano Fedeli

As Multi-channel Director, Mondadori Retail, he is concerned with eCommerce and all the integration initiatives of the real and digital channels of Mondadori Bookshops. He is an expert in On-line and Retail and has worked with various companies on the optimisation of the Customer Journey of multi-channel customers and the implementation of digital strategies in line with the evolution of consumers’ needs.