We have witnessed a variety of retail trends recently including an increase in ‘click and collect’ schemes, the use of social media to engage customers and emergence of retail apps and mobile websites to ensure consumers are always connected. One common denominator throughout is that retailers are increasingly becoming aware of a need to shift towards the multichannel.

From small home-based sellers all the way through to the biggest household brands, the phrase multichannel retailing has become the buzz word of the day. But what does it really mean in practice and how do brands decide which channels they should be exploring?

There is certainly a lot of talk today around mobile, social and local commerce and what is clear is that consumers are growing increasingly familiar with these platforms. While some remain hesitant about spending on these new, channels, others are keen to engage with their favourite brands wherever they are.

We are at present experiencing the interim period between awareness and adoption, where brands and consumers alike are experimenting and using these channels to engage and build trust. What retailers need to ensure however is that they are incorporating these channels into a wider, more holistic multichannel strategy in order to reap the benefits.

Whether it is e, m, s or f commerce that consumers choose to partake in, what is clear is that consumers desire selection, value and accessibility. For retailers, this means ensuring that their products are available when, where how the customer wants them. These ‘social channels’ are broadly considered to be the future of retail and brands continue to integrate each into a wider, more holistic multichannel strategy.

What retailers do need to bear in mind is that despite the wide variety of platforms available, choice of platform will soon become irrelevant. It will be widely expected to see the phrase ‘x-commerce’ becoming increasingly common. Retailer must therefore begin to act now to create and maintain a successful multichannel presence to be successful in 2012 and beyond.