January 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

Tech vendors move toward more multi-channel retailing systems

Companies like Micros Retail, Escalate Retail, Microsoft, IBM and iCongo are offering more multi-channel functionality in technology platforms, enabling merchants to better market and merchandise to shoppers based on their shopping behavior across multiple channels.

When Micros Retail emerged last month as the new common name for three sister units of Micros Systems Inc.-Datavantage, CommercialWare and eOne Group-it coincided with a trend toward more multi-channel functionality in retail technology designed to manage data across web, store and contact center channels.

“We look forward to having complete cross-channel visibility to our customers,” says Micros Retail customer Mike Busch, director of information systems for outdoor apparel and gear retailer Patagonia. “The cross-channel transparency of web, catalog, and store sales will enhance our ability to provide world class customer service regardless how the customer chooses to interact with us.”

Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail strategies for research and advisory firm AMR Research Inc., says Micros Retail is an example of a technology vendor that is approaching the “holy grail” of true multi-channel retailing capability, where retailers can compile customer shopping data across all retailing channels, then build personalized merchandising and marketing campaigns based on that information to target customers in whichever channel they happen to shop.

“Since the acquisition of key retail assets over the past few years, Micros brings to the market a compelling and comprehensive retail technology platform, and the formal creation of Micros-Retail is a sign that they acknowledge the significant market opportunity and operating efficiencies gained by going to market as a retail enterprise suite,” Garf says. “The combined solution is compelling as it moves them closer to a cross-channel platform that includes both consumer-facing applications like POS, call center, and e-commerce, along with back-end order fulfillment.”

Micros is not alone, however, as several vendors-including Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp., Escalate Retail, iCongo and others have begun promoting new multi-channel platforms designed to track customer activity across channels and use that information for interacting with shoppers in any channel.

The technology is also going mobile. “Store sales associates can use handhelds to view online browsing history as well cross-channel purchasing history,” says Brian Dean, senior vice president of strategy and marketing for Escalate Retail.

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