The multi-channel customer is your best customer. Duh.

This is the 3rd straight year that I’ve attended a National Retail Federation “Big Show” session and a senior retail executive takes the stage and proclaims that the multichannel–or “omni-channel” if you want to be trendy–customer spends more than a single channel customer.

In fact, they say–pausing to create a little extra anticipation as they prepare to bestow another morsel of massive insight–the more channels she shops in, the more she spends.

I then scan the crowd and notice dozens, maybe hundreds, of my fellow attendees furiously taking notes. I check the Twitter feed and there is a sudden burst of activity as these pearls of wisdom. Must. Be. Shared.

From where I sit, if you care about such things and this is actually news to you, it only proves on thing. You haven’t been paying attention. At all. Let’s hope the boss doesn’t find out.

The reality is that Sears and JC Penney were reporting that their multi-channel customers outspent single channel customer by 3 or 4X nearly a decade ago.

At Neiman Marcus we reported the same phenomenon in public statements in 2006 and 2007.  Lots of other brands have said essentially the same thing over the last several years. Look it up. I’ll wait.

So now that we know to be skeptical about how NRF selects its speakers–and you’re aware that you need to up your market research game–so what?

First of all, it might be better to state things this way: your best customer is a multi-channel customer. The distinction being that if someone is already a good customer they are more likely to start engaging with you in other forms (web, mobile, social, etc.). Understanding cause and effect, and segmenting your customers by pathway to profitability, is well worth the effort.

Second, stating facts about customer behavior isn’t a strategy. You aren’t going to win in an increasingly omni-channel (see how trendy I am!) world unless you fully embrace customer-centricity, are committed to treating different customers differently AND you have a clear idea of how each channel or touch-point delivers a remarkable customer experience.

So if you are just learning to appreciate the multi-channel customer and are thinking about an omni-channel initiative, I’d get started.

And I’d hurry. It’s later than you think.


7 thoughts on “The multi-channel customer is your best customer. Duh.

  1. Hi Steven, as always I love your honesty, always relevant. I always think the same thing, yet senior leaders (esp in Canada) seem to be surprised like it’s the first they have heard it. You are a breath of fresh air!

    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  2. ditto – 100 percent. i speak to dozens of retailers monthly. it totally blows my mind how they have to ‘analyze’ if it makes sense to leverage store inventory and store labor to pick pack and ship product direct to consumer for sales that would have been lost because their warehouse was out of stock. they sell product at full margin, ship expenses are reduced, and see a 20 percent lift (minimal) in ecom revenue- all because a nearby store has the inventory to sell- DUH.

    Then they wonder why Amazon and their progressive competitors are delivering better earnings and share holder value. – DUH

    good write up Steven.

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