June 20, 2006, 12:00 AM

Multi-channel retailers often overlook integrated data, analyst says

Pressed by competition to expand multi-channel shopping services through initiatives like in-store web-based kiosks, many retailers avoid the costly work of integrating channel data, Gartner analyst Mark Riseley says.


Pressed by competition to expand multi-channel shopping services through initiatives like in-store web-based kiosks and store pick-up of online orders, many retailers avoid the more costly work of integrating channel data and wind up disappointing customers, Gartner analyst Mark Riseley tells Internet Retailer.

“A lot of retailers are confused about what multi-channel retailing really means,” says Riseley, who’s based in London. Many either don’t realize that multi-channel retailing requires integrated customer, product and inventory data shared across each selling channel, or they don’t have the cross-channel organizational support for it, he says.

But without that shared information stored in a central database, retailers who reach out to customers in multiple channels can cause more problems than they expect, Riseley says. If an in-store kiosk isn’t integrated with multi-channel order management and inventory management systems, for example, a customer might order something at the kiosk only to find out later that it wasn’t in stock, Riseley says.

“Retailers would then be giving their customers more choice in how to be disappointed in more channels instead of one or two,” he says.

Adding to the challenge, he says, is that many retailers still don’t have a designated executive responsible for multi-channel retailing. “When we did a survey of retailers, it was hard to find specific people with responsibility for multi-channel activity,” Riseley says.

“But eventually true multi-channel retailing with data shared across channels will become retailing as usual,” he adds. “That’s how it’s going to be, though maybe not for 5 to 10 years or more.”


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