October 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Study finds many retail execs say their company lacks multichannel focus

Roughly 32% of business execs responsible for e-commerce and/or channel strategy say their company lacks a vision for providing consumers a consistent multichannel experience, according to a Forrester study released today.

Roughly 32% of business executives responsible for e-commerce and/or channel strategy say their company lacks a vision for providing consumers a consistent multichannel experience, according to a Forrester study released today at the Forrester Research Consumer Forum in Chicago.

The survey also found that only 29% of respondents said their company has the ability to provide a consistent cross-channel experience, says Forrester analyst Henry Harteveldt. For instance, 55% of the respondents said their companies offered effective online customer support, while 64% and 80% said their call centers and stores provided effective customer support, respectively. That illustrates companies’ lack of consistency between channels, he says.

“While one division may have the responsibility for the web site, a different group may run the store, a different group may run the call center and the mobile division may be run by someone else,” says Harteveldt. “So because of the different silos there is a lack of continuity within the organization.”

The various groups that interact with customers need to collaborate, and retailers should reward them for doing so, says Harteveldt. “If the web team contributes to a sale at the call center who gets credit for that?” he asks. “It should be shared, but I don’t see that in place in the way it should be.”

Harteveldt points to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as an example of successful multichannel integration. “Walmart.com is focused on how people use technology, not just for shopping but for other parts of their life,” he says. “They are focused on what people are buying in their stores and why, they have insight on what’s selling online and they use that information to meet consumers’ needs across the various ways they shop.”

If companies fail to improve customers’ multichannel experiences, they stand to lose customers, says Harteveldt. “People are focused on their pocketbook and there’s an overabundance of brands and retailers. If one retailer doesn’t make them happy, they’ll look for someone else. They’ll keep trying until they find one that pleases them.”

Forrester conducted the online survey of 100 executives in September.

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