April 17, 2007, 12:00 AM

Retailers investing more in broadband to support multi-channel retailing

Multi-channel retailers have increased their budgets for bringing broadband Internet access into their stores to better distribute information on products, inventory levels and customer shopping history, AMR Research says.


Multi-channel retailers have sharply increased their budgets for bringing broadband Internet access into their stores to better distribute information on products, inventory levels and customers’ cross-channel shopping history, says Rob Garf, vice president of retail strategies at research and advisory firm AMR Research Inc.

“That tells us retailers are investing in broadband to more swiftly move across channels data like product descriptions, inventory levels and customer purchase history,” Garf says. Retailers surveyed by AMR said they increased by an average of 39% in 2006 over 2005 spending budgets allotted to store broadband connections, he adds.

Garf is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 4-7 in San Jose, in a session entitled E-Retailing Technology: Making the Right Decisions.

The investment in broadband makes retailers better able to both collect and distribute across channels data on customer shopping behavior; in turn, that enables retailers to plan marketing and merchandising plans based on the interests customers have shown across channels, Garf says. At the same time, it enables retailers to more quickly and accurately deliver product descriptions and images as well as real-time inventory levels to employees and customers on in-store point-of-sale terminals and self-service kiosks. Another plus is that this makes it possible for merchants to show a single version of the truth in data and images shared across web, store and contact center channels, Garf adds.

The investment in broadband also complements increased interest retailers are showing in deploying more sophisticated web content management systems. “Retailers are investing in more robust content management systems to handle not only traditional product descriptions, but also things like product videos and consumer-generated videos,” Garf says.

These systems are also supporting in-store kiosks and digital product-display signs, which in some cases are fed by content directly from the retailer’s web site. In addition, retailers are also beginning to use data from customer relationship management systems on cross-channel customer preferences to determine what to feature on in-store electronic displays as well as on web sites.

Garf adds, however, that retailers are still in the early stages of what can be accomplished in multi-channel retailing. “What exists today will only be a small portion of what will comprise cross-channel retailing tomorrow,” he says.


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