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Are You Maximizing All Available Sales Channels to Sell More?

2012 will be the year of merging multi-channel into mega-channel.  (You heard it here first… well, maybe not first, but you have now heard it here.) The lines between the two main traditional sales channels—online and in-store—are blurring, and the sub-channels of each of those main channels are growing (think social and mobile).

Thanks to mobile technology, people are now going online while in-store, and their online purchases are bringing them into stores compliments of growing in-store pickup capabilities.

What does this mean? It means there are now more ways to sell more (and an equal number of ways to lose sales if you aren’t being proactive).

Take QR codes as an example. In this recent Internet Retailer blog post, they discuss how multi-channel retailers like GNC and Lowe’s are using QR codes to link their stores to the online world.  And Best Buy has been in the QR Code business for over a year. QR codes can instantly link in-store shoppers from store ads, in-store signage or product packaging to product information, online promotions, product reviews or enhanced product videos via their smartphones. This can turn a customer’s mobile phone into an on-call salesperson.

When I was recently in the market for a treadmill, I was able to use my phone to scan a QR code right off the package of the model I was looking and read the specs and reviews right in the Costco aisle. In my case, it closed the sale in the store. Without the QR Code, I would have gone home to research the model, possibly leading to my purchase of another treadmill.

Mobile, in general, is fast becoming one of the most critical sales and marketing channels for any business. Aside from the emerging popularity of QR codes, people use their mobile phones to scan barcodes for instant price comparison, to read product reviews and check inventory. If you aren’t providing mobile-optimized content, such as product specifications, reviews and videos, to your shoppers—whether they are already in a store or on their way—you are missing a chance to close a sale.

For shoppers that don’t want to use or don’t have a smartphone to access that content (and that group is quickly shrinking), many multi-channel retailers offer in-store kiosks where customers can access their online sales information and even request a different size or model be shipped to the store for pickup or directly to their home. Kohl’s even lets you scan a product barcode to search for other sizes or colors online.

When it comes to websites driving foot traffic into stores, in-store pickup is the name of the game. The concept pioneered by the now defunct Circuit City is the electronics retailer’s legacy to the retail industry. Toys-R-Us and Home Depot recently joined Walmart, Sears, Best Buy, Staples and Nordstrom to offer in-store pickup for online orders to its customers who love the convenience and service.

It’s clear the direction things are heading. It is quickly becoming a world where I don’t have to just buy the colors, sizes and models that my local retailer decided to stock. In the future, I will get what I want. And if my retailer doesn’t want to help me get that, I will get it elsewhere—online, on my phone or down the street.

Are you keeping up?

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