Extending the Point of Sale Within Multichannel Companies

Extending the point of sale is something pure-play retailers have been trying to do for years. As offline companies begin to explore multichannel marketing, it’s important they try to extend the traditional point of sale to its online counterpart.

Traditionally, offline stores use the point of sale (culminating with the cash-register line) to incrementally upsell purchases with impulse items like candy, gum, and magazines. Online stores do that, too, with features ranging from “people who bought this also bought that” to top-10 lists of products in your favorite categories. Beyond the point of sale, companies such as Amazon.com continue this effort by emailing you about the products on the checkout thank-you page and by including recommendations with your receipt.

Though this is obvious and easier to do when the actual store is online, offline companies need to get into this incremental post-sale sale as well. For instance, I just went on a Carnival Cruise and had a blast. If you’ve never taken a cruise, I highly recommend one. Cruise lines like Carnival are extending their reach by providing terrific presale support via their Web sites.

Carnival just announced a new vacation-planning Web site, Carnival Connections, that allows families and friends to research and book trips together. They can poll each other, send messages to each other, read and write reviews, and more. All this multichannel marketing really helps in the presale phase. There are, however, tons of post-sale opportunities for incremental revenue as well.

One of the largest moneymakers on board is the ship’s photo gallery. Throughout the cruise, a team of photographers snaps pictures of all the major events. They photograph people as they enter the ship’s theater for the welcome party, they photograph them at dinner, and they photograph them as they exit and reenter the ship on days it visits a port. There are even photo studios on board with backdrops and lighting for more professional “studio” portraits.

Each morning, photos from the previous day are set up on kiosks in the photo gallery. They’re categorized by event, so you know where to look. On my cruise, for instance, the photos taken at dinner were separated by dining room and seat. There are photos from the Captain’s Party, the Talent Show, and so forth. Once you locate the correct category, you sift through the photos until you find yours. Depending on size, photos can cost from $8 to $20. If that weren’t enough, there was also a video crew creating a “videologue,” available for purchase up until the last day.

These create terrific incremental buys for the cruise line and provide the passengers with terrific memories. The problem, however, is the photos are only for sale on the ship. Memory items like these become more important as time passes and the need for the memory is greater. Of 8-10 photos of us, we only bought two. Because we were on the ship at the time, having all the photos didn’t seem that important. Now, as time goes on and my tan fades, I wish I had more professional photos of the vacation. I slightly regret not getting the travelogue. Though cruise lines do a great presales job of multichannel marketing, they miss terrific post-sales opportunities.

Carnival allows me to enter my previous cruises on its Web site, for example. I can log in and review all the cruises I’ve taken. Other than some savings on future trips, there isn’t much benefit. If it were to extend the point of sale, my previous trips would also contain links to items from those trips that I could buy. It would take some IT work and storage, but I’d like to be able to review all the photos from my trip (they’re digital anyway) and possibly purchase them now. I’d like to be able to buy my travelogue now as well. I might even wish I had bought some branded merchandise from the store (such as mugs or T-shirts). The system could be as simple as mirroring the on-board photo gallery, in which I sift through photos based on event. More interesting would be if the photographers scanned my ID card from the trip when they take a picture, so my account would contain only the photos of me.

Just as important, I want to stay in touch with people I met on the cruise. I’ve connected with some passengers I met because we exchanged email addresses and are now linked on either MySpace.com or Friendster. But it would be great if cruise lines allowed that to happen within their world.

Carnival Connections allows communities of friends to plan future travel together but doesn’t allow you to reach people you met on a cruise. In fact, our new cruise friends and I have decided we want to cruise together again. If there were a Web site in which we were already connected, finding another cruise together (using tools like this new Carnival site) would be very easy (and keep us cruising with the same company). Though Carnival Connections exists for group planning, we’d all have to join this new site manually. Our shared history (or the fact we’re registered on the main Carnival site) doesn’t matter.

Post-Sales for Multichannel Companies

As traditional companies move online, they must figure out how to use the online channel not just for (pre-) sales and marketing, but how to grow offline relationships and provide post-sale opportunities online. In the case of the cruise industry, items such as photos and videos are now all processed digitally. Migrating these digital assets online and making them available post-cruise should be a no-brainer.

It’s not just cruise lines. Every traditional retail or service company with an online arm should figure out how to extend their sales opportunities beyond the point of purchase. Whether it’s post-sales warranties, cross-sells (based on in-store purchases), or notices to restock replenishable goods (if I buy ink cartridges in a store), the online channel provides the ongoing relationship possibilities traditional stores need. That’s why they’re getting online in the first place. They just need to take better advantage of the integration of the channels.

Thoughts? Let me know.

Until next time,


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