Our Favorite Channels

Sure, we cover all marketing channels here at Multichannel Merchant. But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have our favorites when we’re out in the world as shopping civilians. For our first official issue of Multichannel Merchant, we provide answers to a burning question: “In what channel do you prefer to shop?”

MELISSA DOWLING

Sure, the Web is great for comparison shopping, and I enjoy the thrill of the hunt for retail markdowns (don’t get in my way during a sale at Banana Republic), but nothing beats catalogs. They’re fun to look at, and they’re portable.

Plus with a catalog, you pick up the phone, place your order, and a package is on its way to you within days. (I know most catalogers aim to migrate customers to order online, but forget about it — I do enough typing at work.)

And if my husband sees the package first, he always says, “You have a present here.” A catalog package does feel like a present — even if it contains extension cords and tile grout.

RAMA RAMASWAMI

My favorite shopping channel? Why, the Web, of course. If you live, as I do, in suburban isolation, you have to drive what seems like hundreds of miles to get to the brick-and-mortar stores. And once you arrive, you spend what seems like hours fighting for parking spaces while stalked by determined women in SUVs. And if you’re lucky enough to find a store that looks like it might have something you want to try on, of course it doesn’t have the item in your size.

The Web, by contrast, is downright chummy. I’m not assaulted by loud music, hapless sales “help,” or racks of clothing seven sizes too large. I thank the online deities for saving me from the march of the SUVs.

SHERRY CHIGER

An ideal vacation for me is to spend a week in a foreign country where I know no one and where the only words I have to utter to another human being are “Could I have another pint, please?” In my pre-marriage, pre-parenthood days, I spent many a happy weekend alone writing in my apartment, letting the answering machine pick up all my calls and venturing out only to stock up on Oreo ice cream and the Sunday Times. So it’s little wonder that my purchasing channel of choice is the Internet.

Before I buy, though, I like to leaf through a print catalog first: A computer screen can’t compare with the clarity of ink on glossy paper. And it’s much easier to flip the pages of a catalog while spending family time (read: watching SpongeBob SquarePants) with the husband and the kid than it is to skip from one Web page to the next.

When it’s time to seek out the best deals and to place my order, though, the silence of the Internet is golden.

JOHN FISCHER

I’ll opt for the online channel every time. Granted, I still have a soft spot for retail, thinking back to my junior high years when I’d somehow manage to save up enough money to buy a record album (remember those?). Back then, the joy of shopping was going to the store, reading the album liner notes, and then maybe investing in an accessory item, such as a record needle or the round attachment used to play 45s. But these days, when it comes to shopping, I’d rather reach for the mouse than for my car keys. As a book and music hound, I make most of my online excursions to Alibris and CD Universe. It’s not quite the same as combing through the aisles of book and music stores, but it works. And it sure beats loading up the kids and the pets in the car and hitting the mall.

HEATHER RETZLAFF

I love to shop online. It doesn’t matter what I’m shopping for, I just love the Web: no checkout lines, no babies crying, no salespeople hovering over me. It’s just me and the merchandise; me and my mouse clicking away to find that “can’t pass it up because it’s such a steal” deal.

My favorite site is Discount Dance Supply. I’ve spent the majority of my life in ballet studios either taking classes or teaching them. So having a place I can find quality dancewear and shoes online at a discounted price (and where my only distraction is trying to remember what size I wear) is essential.

MARK DEL FRANCO

I hate to wait for anything. A cab, a stoplight, the Yankees to capture another World Series. The same applies to my shopping habits. If I need a shirt, a CD, or a book, I’ll head to the nearest mall. I can touch the merchandise, smell it, or try it on for size.

Even during the busy Christmas season, retail is the thing. Navigating a crowded parking lot, battling the last-minute hordes — it’s all part of my annual holiday experience. To me, there’s little else that compares to the thrill of starting, and completing, one’s Christmas shopping on Dec. 24.

So let my co-workers natter on about helpful customer service reps or flashy Websites. I’ll be sipping coffee at the mall’s food court.

MARGERY WEINSTEIN

Shopping at its best is a dance among channels. I may browse online, but it’s just as likely that I’ll buy the new Victoria’s Secret lavender pinstripe suit and pink open-toe stilettos over the phone.

The benefits of channel hopping became clear two years ago, when I bought a beige corduroy jacket at a J. Crew store. A few weeks later, while thumbing through the catalog, I decided to buy the same jacket in turquoise. Instant gratification on the brain, I returned to the store, but there were no jackets in my size. I was disappointed until the salesperson pointed me toward the in-store catalog phone. No instant gratification, but within a few days I did get the jacket!

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