By integrating their websites with their brick-and-mortar stores, retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart enable customers to pick up orders placed online while they visit the stores. But Best Buy has also designed its website to be more accessible to customers, making it easier for them to do research on electronics. For example, the television finder on bestbuy.com allows consumers to search using criteria such as price, screen size, brand, and technology.

The reason for these efforts? Best Buy’s multichannel customers spend 95 percent more than single-channel shoppers and contribute 80 percent more profit margin. At Target, these multichannel customers spend $1000 per year, compared only $550 per year spend by store-only shoppers and $94 for online-only customers. Because the multichannel customers feel comfortable with the sales environment, whether in-store or online, they end up spending more with a retailer that offers such varied channels.

In this sense, retail websites also offer an effective marketing tool for convincing consumers to get into the physical store. For example, when a website provides additional content related to the products of interest, the retailer is offering greater value to consumers, which encourages those customers to keep turning to the company for further information and products. Thus REI posts extensive how-to articles and videos, pertaining to topics of interest to its active clientele, such as camping or bike equipment. Customers can refer to REI, rather than needing to search external blogs or other information sources, for details about how to set up camp, then conveniently find and purchase the perfect tent without ever leaving the site.

But not all customers visit retail websites every day. For attracting these consumers, social media sites can be a superb tactic—whether they get customers to the online site or the brick-and-mortar store. The Gap notifies customers of flash sales through its Facebook site, and companies such as Nordstrom have redesigned their websites to ensure they look good on mobile devices.

Why is one multichannel customer better than two single-channel customers?

Anna Roboton, “From Online to In-Store,” Shopping Centers Today, June 2011.

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