March 25, 2008, 12:00 AM

Merchants improving on cross-channel retailing

With more effective management structures and multi-channel technology, retailers are beginning to improve how they serve customers across retailing channels, AMR Research analyst Rob Garf says.

With more effective management structures and multi-channel technology, retailers are beginning to improve how they serve customers across retailing channels, says Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of the retail strategies at research and advisory firm AMR Research Inc.

“Retailers in earnest now are focusing more on cross-channel retailing as a business priority,” Garf says.

The retail industry as a whole still has a long way to go in effectively serving consumers across shopping channels, a process that requires merchants to maintain a single record of individual customer activity across each channel in order to personalize the shopping experience based on a customer’s interests as recorded in all of a retailer’s channels. “On a scale of one to five, I’d rate most retailers a two,” Garf says.

But there are two broad developments leading to more effective cross-channel retailing, he says. For one thing, recent research by AMR found that more retailers have a top executive overseeing e-commerce, a step that helps to ensure that the web serves as a central point for managing customer activity across multiple channels. In a survey conducted last fall, AMR found that 42% of retailers had designated a top executive in charge e-commerce who “ensures that online operations are synchronized with brick-and-mortar and call center operations.” That 42% is up from a “low double-digit” percentage a couple of years ago, he adds.

In addition, more retailers are also designating merchandise managers responsible for coordinating product presentations across multiple channels.

At the same, time Garf says, such vendors as iCongo Inc., Escalate Inc. and Retaligent Solutions Inc. are offering technology designed to support the management of customer shopping activity across multiple channels, so that, for example, a shopper can log onto a web site with a password and see merchandise suggestions based on her shopping history across all of a retailer’s channels.

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