Multichannel is a key theme at Shop.org's FirstLook show

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ORLANDO, FL - Sophistication among channels was the key theme at this week's National Retail Federation's FirstLook Shop.org conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort.

The show's aim is looking toward the future of online commerce and identifying consumer trends that are on the horizon, according to Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, Washington, at the event's eHoliday Mood Study presentation.

"Most of you are realizing the significance of the Internet as a transaction channel for your brand, but the real opportunity lies in optimizing the Web as a real shopping channel and incorporating it into the entire shopping experience," Mr. Silverman told the e-commerce delegates.

"It is interesting to see where customers start finding their information before they go into stores or to a Web site and make a purchase," he said.

The message was loud and clear with the morning keynote from Mike Ullman, chairman/CEO of department store retailer J.C. Penney. Mr. Ullman spoke about the success of J.C. Penney stores, catalog and the e-commerce site at www.JCP.com.

In addition to the Plano, TX-based retailer's tradition of catalog desks, J.C. Penney recently added Web-enabled e-commerce terminals to stores. Sales associates can use these to help customers find products that are not in the store or the Big Book catalog.

"We see the three channels getting more and more blurred," Mr. Ullman said. "The Big Book is becoming less important, because the Big Book is online."

A key issue was integrating multiple channels into the company's systems architecture. Attendees raised the subject in various sessions at FirstLook.

The show floor hosted a number of exhibitors who deal in retail systems management, such as Omniture, which unveiled the latest edition of its online/offline integrations system.

According to Mr. Silverman, one third of retailers sent IT executives to FirstLook this year. The preview day was dedicated to marketing executives who are lured by social networking, mobile retailing and online video, and backing up the hype.

"This year's Time magazine Person of the Year was you, and consumers have seized the control of their purchasing power, so retailers must evolve," said Elaine Rubin, chairman of Shop.org and a senior Amazon.com Inc. executive.

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