Consumer giants take on the retail web challenge

Published:  07 March, 2011

LONDON: B&Q and Wickes demonstrated the high costs associated with growing web sales. B&Q plans to spend £35m updating its website, providing an integrated platform that will streamline multi-channel operations. 

There are also plans to launch a mobile transactional site by the end of 2011, tapping into the needs of DIYers and tradesmen 'on the go'.

B&Q and Kingfisher UK chief executive Euan Sutherland said the investment aims to deliver the right multi-channel experience for customers' lifestyles.

Wickes, the Travis Perkins retailer, has seen the value of its online sales increase by 70% in the last year, following improvements to its online service, and providing a faster delivery service for items such as cement, timber and paving slabs.

Next day delivery of bulky items was introduced last year – B&Q has only now started to offer delivery –and the bathroom range available online extended. Sales and market share have increased "significantly" since then, said Wickes. The company is also working on integrating store and online systems, and building the infrastructure necessary to develop its multichannel offer further.

Multi- channel explained

Multi-channel marketing uses as many electronic means as possible to reach customers. Typically these include the retail store, web sites, a mail order catalogues, direct communications by letter, email or text message. The objective is to make it easy for a consumer to buy in whatever way is most appropriate.

To be effective multi-channel marketing needs to be supported by good supply chain management systems, so that the details and prices of goods on offer are consistent across the different channels.

It might also be supported by detailed analysis of the return on investment from each different channel, measured in terms of customer response and conversion of sales. Some companies target certain channels at different demographic segments of the market or at different socio-economic groups of consumers.

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