*Study: Multichannel Shoppers Spend More

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SAN DIEGO -- Multichannel shoppers are more valuable to retailers than single-channel shoppers are, a signal to Internet-only players to focus on customer care, according to a study by the National Retail Federation, the J.C. Williams Group, BizRate.com and MSN e-Shop released yesterday during the NRF.com conference here.

Consumers who buy from a retail store after visiting that retailer's Web site spend 33 percent more each year in the bricks-and-mortar stores compared with typical store-only customers. Likewise, consumers who buy from a catalog after visiting the retailer's site spend 20 percent more annually from the catalog than catalog-only shoppers do.

"They're the ones who apparently enjoy shopping and buy a lot," said James Okamura, senior partner at the J.C. Williams Group, Chicago, a retail consulting firm. "It's the kind of customers all retailers like to attract."

Dollar figures for consumer spending were not available and varied from retailer to retailer, Okamura said.

The Channel Surfing: Measuring Multi-Channel Shopping survey studied consumer shopping behavior and influences in bricks-and-mortar stores, catalogs and on the Internet. Seventeen multichannel retailers with combined 1999 sales of more than $150 billion participated.

Participants included six department stores; six specialty retailers; and five apparel, accessory and specialty retailers. Target Corp., macys.com and Service Merchandise Co. were among the participants.

Consumers shop extensively between channels, the study found. Online shoppers were the biggest cross-shoppers. Forty-three percent of them have bought from catalogs, and 59 percent also have purchased from bricks-and-mortar stores.

J.C. Williams' Okamura said e-tailers need to understand who their best customers are and to see if their behavior bears similarity to multichannel shoppers.

"I think the pure-play retailer really needs to understand that if they have penetrated that group, and make their own business decisions to develop other business channels," he said.

These other channels could include physical stores, Web kiosks and the catalog. But the channel surfing study does not imply that Internet-only retailers have a flawed model.

"For pure-play retailers, I don't think this is a call-to-action where they need to rush out and build stores," Okamura said.

"This is about customer care," he said, "and if they can identify their best customers and provide them service, and build relationships and loyalty. It's not saying that the pure-play retailer has to become a multichannel retailer, because that's not realistic."

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