Findings from research commissioned from IDC looking at how retailers can improve their sales and customer retention through improved multichannel planning and customer service cites the fact that store sales influenced by online customer research are three to four times larger than total e-commerce sales.

The implications for retailers are clear; unless they start to cater for the increasingly sophisticated customer across all channels, overall sales will suffer.

IDC has identified what it calls the “omnichannel” customer. According to Ivano Ortis, Research Director, IDC Retail Insights, who wrote the report: “Multichannel shoppers spend, on average, 15%–30% more with a retailer than someone who uses only one channel. IDC Retail Insights estimates that omnichannel shoppers will spend over 20% more than multichannel consumers, will exhibit strong loyalty, and will influence others to patronize the retailer.

“In order to get sales from this increasingly important type of customer, IDC advises retailers to ensure that they are providing a “unified, converged channel approach by supporting full technology and process integration between all of the selling channels – meaning a single, logical view of the shopper, the order, and the inventory regardless of the channel.”

IDC further believes that the traditional focus on same-store sales, or new acquisition of customers through eCommerce, is now shifting to “same shopper” sales, tracking how individual shoppers are buying goods and services across different stores and channels. Mobile commerce adds a further edge to this, with consumers able to do price comparison and product reviews in real-time, whilst on the move. Retailers now need to cater for this additional channel and ensure that these potential or existing customers buy through the desired brand, channel or outlet.

Ortis further commented; “We advise retailers to (have) … a single, logical view of the shopper, the order, and the inventory regardless of the channel. Unified retailing requires the adoption of real-time multichannel management systems with embedded analytics that can integrate disparate customer selling front-end systems with back-end platforms (supply chain, merchandise management). Mobile will (also) be a key enabler of unified retail consumer experiences.”

This research from IDC clearly shows how multichannel is quickly evolving in the face of increasingly sophisticated consumer buying behavior to a more agile and dynamic environment where retailers need to provide a complete package of pricing, product information and buying experience that will draw in new customers and maintain existing customer loyalty. Without the proper product content management (PCM) and multichannel commerce solutions encompassing mobile commerce, retailers will struggle to provide this environment, critical to sales success in 2011.