Slick multi-channel retail operators offering consumers the flexibility to shop how and when they like have been the most successful this holiday season.

While extreme weather in many parts of Europe and North America dampened the usual end of year shopping activity, online sales accounted for their highest share of the spend ever.

With distinct winners and losers there is now a clear “two-track” situation in retail and those traders with the highest commitment to their online operations are in the “fast track”.

Retailers that have invested significantly in their Web sites and improving their delivery times have struck a chord with customers who value flexibility, choice and convenience whenever and wherever they do their shopping.

Retail guru and mobile payment entrepreneur Dan Wagner says it’s now make or break for Main Street with retailers needing to leverage online-style technologies in a converged multichannel model to survive.

“Traditional Main Street stores really need to up their game to compete in the new shopping era that we are entering,” he says. “They need a multi-channel approach that adopts best practise from online and adapts its techniques and technologies to traditional brick and mortar retail.

“Smartphones are becoming the focus for customer engagement with shops and retailers should be employing mobile app technologies to improve the customer experience and transforming their premises into data-rich browsing environments.

“For example, low-energy Bluetooth beacons can be strategically placed around stores, messaging shoppers as they approach special offers. In this way shopping becomes a more interactive and personalised experience. The technology also has the additional bonus of adding value by retaining valuable data about shopping behaviour.”

Wagner adds: “A new concept known as clientelling is another way physical shops can offer something more to the customer.

“Using clientelling techniques, when a staff member serves a customer the IT systems can bring up the individual customer’s engagement record and automatically flag if they have ordered something online that they could be collecting from the store.

“The shop worker, even if it’s their first day on the job, has all the information they need to assist the customer, extend the engagement in a number of ways and perhaps identify otherwise unexploited opportunities to up-sell.”

Often an extensive network of shops and distribution centres is seen as a massive overhead for retailers, but a national footprint can offer big benefits in the multichannel paradigm, Wagner says.

“Retailers with a network of stores and distribution centres should be using this to their advantage by offering immediate delivery for online orders,” he says.

“They could use geolocation information about where orders are being placed and contact the customer by text to suggest a visit to the nearest store to their current location to pick up their shopping, or perhaps to suggest delivery in the next half hour. This contact also offers another valuable opportunity for engagement and up-selling.

“Mobile technologies along with clientelling and the use of local stores as delivery/distribution points, in concert with developments in the design and layout of shops offer more convenience and a customer experience that is on a par with and often richer than the online alternatives,” Wagner adds.

“Traditional retailers now have no excuses not to up their game and adopt online techniques. The number of ways that they can engage with their customers is increasing but they urgently need to adopt a more technology-led, multichannel approach to get them coming back in through their doors.”