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Marketing Matters: Multi-channeling Key to Success

By: Donna C. Barson
Posted: August 28, 2008, from the April 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

With mid year approaching, I hope that this year turns out to be your best ever. One thing that will certainly help make that hope a reality is multi-channeling.

When the Internet first became available as a selling tool, retailers and marketers both tended to establish two distinctly different operations: online and bricks-and-mortar. Each operated independently of the other, even to the point of keeping separate sales and inventory records.

But as time has gone on, the online shopping experience has grown and matured. It has become apparent that the two not only complement, but feed off of one another. It is the ultimate symbiotic relationship. Both have distinct sales, marketing and development agendas; there are no one size fits all approaches. The experience must be seamless, or the consumer will abandon it for a more convenient competitor. On the other hand, success in one often leads to success in another.

Take Nordstrom, for example. Several years ago the company—one of America’s most venerable retailers—realized that multi-channeling was key to their survival and committed $150 million to a three-year upgrade of their Web presence, in effort to achieve a seamless multi-channel experience across Web, catalog and bricks-and-mortar.

The result? Nordstrom profits soared almost 24% for the first three quarters of fiscal 2006 to $446 million. For the entire fiscal year ending in early February, the company projects earnings per share of $2.46 to $2.51. In 2005, that figure was $1.98 per share. Responding to the strong profit picture, the company’s stock went up more than 30% in 2006.