Retailers traditionally maintained a single department, offering sales and support via a single mode of customer interaction like the physical store. Over time this has expanded to include multiple ways of selling to, engaging, and interacting with the customer, primarily via mail, catalogue and telephone. Advancing technology however, has led to a number of new ways of inter-personal interaction like the internet, mobile phones, and interactive TV; and as these embed deeper into social culture, subsequently new channels for offering product and service.
Multi-Channel then refers to the delivery of customer propositions via multiple channels with at least some degree of cross channel integration in management, information and service, i.e. in a consistent and coordinated way across all channels.
Complete integration and sharing of information and experience across all channels is now being referred to as Merged-Channel retailing, but that's a story for another post. If you want to know more, have a look at my articles on The High Street 2.0, which are about merging online and offline customer experiences.
Some Further Reading on Multi-Channel Retailing
- Multi-Channel Retailing (ACRS Secondary Research Report 2007)
- Where is the true Multi-Channel Retailer (Aberdeen Group)
- The Multi-Channel Challenge (ACI eSeries Initiative)
- Multi-Channel Customer Management: The Benefits and Management (IBM)
- Winning the Multi-Channel Challenge (Booz Allen Hamilton)
- Meeting Multi-Channel Consumer Demands (Experian)