August 29, 2002, 12:00 AM

What it takes to shine at multi-channel retailing

The best multi-channel merchants capitalize on shoppers’ buying behavior while making it easy to shop and buy in any channel, says Duif Calvin, vice president of the retail practice at consultants Scient.

When it comes to multi-channel retailing, the best merchants provide services that capitalize on shoppers’ buying behavior while also making it easy to shop and buy in any channel, says Duif Calvin, vice president of the retail practice at consultants Scient Inc.

Eddie Bauer, for instance, "really understands what it needs to do in the multi-channel world, and it understood it earlier than most," Calvin tells For example, she notes, the retailer’s gift certificates can be used in-store, online or through a catalog. "That’s important to people," she says, adding that the gift certificates themselves are made available through multiple channels, including e-mail.

In merchandising, Calvin adds, Eddie Bauer takes advantage of the online environment by presenting offers that it wouldn’t be able to do in a brick-and-mortar store, for example, displaying online all women’s apparel items for under a certain price.

At Barnes & Noble’s, shoppers are awarded the convenience of being able to return a purchased item to a store. Not only does that often make it easier for customers, it also gives the store the opportunity to recapture the sale. "The in-store salesperson can then sell them another item," Calvin says.

Sharper Image does "a fantastic job in each channel" to both make shopping easier for customers and capitalize on each channel’s strengths, she says. "They integrate things," Calvin says, noting for example that Sharper Image makes it easy for online shoppers to order a paper catalog for offline browsing. At the same time, she adds, Sharper Image will offer incentives, such as discount coupons, to encourage customers to place orders on its web site instead of on the phone as a way to cut operating costs.


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