April 20, 2006, 12:00 AM

Retailers build multi-channel systems in stages

A new Internet Retailer survey shows that e-retailers are using their integrated e-commerce systems to build their multi-channel retailing programs in stages, beginning with customer service, fulfillment and inventory management.

Many retailers see their networked e-commerce system as a marketing and merchandising tool that can build sales and brand awareness across all sales venues.

But a new Internet Retailer survey of nearly 160 merchants shows that web retailers are using their integrated e-commerce systems to build their multi-channel retailing programs in stages, beginning with customer service, fulfillment and inventory management. Next in the business development pipeline are leveraging e-commerce platforms to support buy-online-pick-up-in-store, catalog quick order, integrated gift registries, cross channel gift cards and product recommendations.

The survey indicates that most retailers are farthest along in catalog quick order. The survey found that 38.4% of merchants have e-commerce systems that support catalog quick order compared with 28.5% that don’t and 33.1% that don’t have a catalog. However, the survey also finds that shoppers aren’t taking full advantage of the multi-channel tools retailers are offering on their e-commerce sites. For instance, of those with catalog quick order, 44.6% say catalog quick orders represent less than 5% of all transactions.

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