More than a third of Homebase customers research online before going to a bricks-and-mortar store, according to the retailer's head of multichannel.
During a speech at the E-Commerce Futures Conference this morning, Andy McWilliams said it highlights the need for a joined up approach in-store and online.
Even if you think you're a multichannel retailer, online and offline often act almost independently. You get different offers online vs. offline. They have to be the same, and communication has to be the same.
One of Homebase's key multichannel tools is reserve and collect, which allows customers to buy online and pick up in-store.
McWilliams said this was essential for destination stores, as consumers expect to know if their chosen product is in stock otherwise they will look for a more convenient place to shop.
It also allows multichannel retailers to stay ahead of pure play e-tailers like Amazon.
The challenge for Amazon is that they don't have a store network. People often aren't at home, so home delivery is ok for small things like books but for bigger purchases I want in-store pick up.
McWilliams' approach to multichannel retailing stems from his experience as a founder of Ocado.
When we built Ocado, one of the key ideas was that every touch point counted so whether that was with the vans or the call centre or online.
He said that retailers needed to be aware that the old days of simply "shouting at customers" through TV ads and direct mail are gone. Digital has changed the landscape as consumers are now exposed to marketing messages from a number of different touch points, and they expect a consistent experience.
Supermarkets used to be all about driving customers to the store, then they could ignore us and take our money.We probably still do a bit of shouting at our customers, but we now also have conversations with them using social media."
He said that while social media can be a retailer's friend, it also leaves brands exposed and can come back to haunt them.
Customers can get quite noisy and angry. They know where you are and they can find you, so you have to be ready to engage with them in the right way.