When a company offers a range of channels it can identify its customers’ needs better and so provide a better quality, more closely-tailored and more lasting experience. This is the view taken by But, a French household goods company.

Interview with Bérangère Lamboley, Head of Marketing and Communication at But.

 So what’s the rise of cross-channel retailing all about, in your view?

Bérangère Lamboley: The cross-channel concept means we can get back to traditional selling. Selling online means the customer can look, buy and only then try the goods out, but sales which combine several channels allow a customer to find a product on the Web, handle it in the store, try it out, and then buy it via either channel. This gets us back to the basics of selling, with smaller stores that have to keep up with their customers’ needs and look after them. It’s all about seeing these various channels as complementary. This is the idea behind Web-to-Store, which is a real trend among our customers. Some 75% of our in-store customers will have already been on to our website, and around 60% of those who buy online come and pick up their goods in-store.

For that to work, I imagine there can’t be any product segmentation by channel on the part of the brand or the retailer?

That’s exactly right. In fact, when we launched our site in 2010 we included the transactional functionality immediately. We decided from the very beginning that the sales revenue would be attributed to the store where the order had been placed. When customers go online, they can actually see what’s in stock at various points of sale in the vicinity, and make their purchases as appropriate. This system means that the store benefits from the online sale and so the transition is relatively painless for our people because the Internet channel is bringing in business for them. Afterwards, in order to increase our usefulness to the customer, we tell the customer about products than can only be bought on the Web; and these carry special offers. This is generally the case for niche products where our stock is centralised.

How do you see the point of sale evolving over the next few years?

There’s definitely a strong chance that the store of the future will be digitised, but will continue to have a human face. And products will be physically available, because people want to handle them. The store will be connected to a dematerialised platform; the two will be completely complementary and two-way. A customer will be able to collect his/her order at the store, find the best offer online, have access to the company’s entire stock, and be able to choose items in-store from a connected terminal or a tablet.

I suppose this trend towards a store that allows a customer access to its entire stock via Internet terminals could also be a means of generating more sales?

That’s right! But, for example, has launched But Cosy outlets in smaller towns. As in our larger stores, customers can use our terminals and tablets which enable them to see the full product range – which can generate additional sales.

Can we say nevertheless that this change of store concept entails a number of difficulties?

Yes, indeed, the first challenge being the technical side. That can be very costly. And from a cultural point of view, there are some concepts that we still need to clarify. Just yesterday we were still talking about ‘multichannel’, meaning channels which were actually competing with each other. Today we’re talking about ‘cross-channel’, which means creating a virtuous circle. But basically we do need to get the databases right; they must be able to identify and deal with customers equally efficiently via all channels.