Study: Multichannel Approach Is a Key Initiative for Retailers

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Retailers have embraced multichannel retailing, according to the results of a new survey released yesterday by Gartner Consulting, a unit of Gartner Inc., Stamford, CT.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents either have a multichannel retailing strategy in place or are planning to begin one.

From September to December 2001, Gartner Consulting conducted phone interviews with 375 retailers in the United States and Europe to examine their intentions of implementing an MRS. The survey showed 33 percent of respondents have an MRS in place, while 27 percent are in the internal-discussion phase and 14 percent have already initiated discussions with technology vendors.

"Vendors should promote the integration of an MRS strategy that includes the physical store, kiosks, wireless channels, catalogs and the Web, so that retailers are prepared to interact seamlessly with their customers when and where the customer chooses," said Jeff Roster, senior analyst for Gartner Dataquest's IT Services group.

As companies prioritize upgrade plans, the survey showed that the company Web site tops the list of upgrades. Forty-five percent of respondents plan to replace, re-engineer, upgrade or develop systems in this area. The next most popular targets for upgrade were point-of-sale systems, database management systems and in-store devices, as each of these categories was selected by 39 percent of the respondents.

"Developing the company Web site figures high in retailers' MRS plans -- along with investment in traditional point-of-sale and other in-store systems -- because retailers are recognizing that the distinction between bricks-and-mortar and clicks-and-mortar no longer exist," said Fred Landis, director for Gartner Consulting's Market and Business Strategies practice. "The online retail channel and the physical retail channel are no longer viewed by retailers as being mutually exclusive. Vendors of retail technology and services must recognize this change and approach retailers with an integrated solution that addresses both channels."

Respondents were asked which system is most important to their companies' retail operations. Point-of-sale systems -- with 67 percent of the respondents' vote -- were the number 1 choice, followed by supply chain/logistics management with 13 percent, customer relationship management with 11 percent, and merchandise planning with 9 percent.

"The results indicate retailers' willingness to invest in the infrastructure necessary to support the multitude of channels, transaction systems and points of interaction required today to increase customer convenience, loyalty and satisfaction," Landis said.

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