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Searching for Cross-Channel Solutions


As consumers research the Web for the best deals available, they are becoming more convinced of the importance of value and competitive pricing. Competitive shopping sites such as Amazon, Froogle and Shopzilla are flourishing as a result of the recession, and there is an increased demand for retailers to integrate with these established sites.

Associate Editor/Web Editor Samantha Murphy spoke with Ian Goldman, president of Staten Island, N.Y.-based Celerant, a multichannel retail software provider that offers integration between channels, about how retailers are optimizing their online channel to overcome the challenges of the down economy.

How are retailers attempting to integrate with comparative shopping sites? 

Retailers are updating and redesigning their sites to gain their competitive edge with a more visual appeal while offering new and advanced functionality, all within search engine optimization best practices for improved organic keyword status. Dynamic navigation and advanced product search are just a few of the many improvements retailers are implementing to provide a more efficient shopping experience. Blogs and content management systems are becoming increasingly popular, in that the frequently added and updated text is not only improving search-engine rankings, but also promoting customer interaction and loyalty.

In what other ways are retailers overcoming recession-related obstacles? 

Retailers are offering more competitive pricing online and promoting these specials via e-mail initiatives, direct mail and in-store advertising. Web analytics also allows retailers to track traffic and trends, providing the foundation for personalized promotions; discounts can be offered to shoppers who haven’t visited the site in a long time or to shoppers who have abandoned their shopping carts. Added values, such as free shipping, are other ways in which retailers are becoming more competitive online.

What point is the industry at with integrating their cross-channel initiatives? 

The retail industry hasn’t completely recognized the importance of integrated cross-channel initiatives yet. While the demand for integrated cross channels is rising, vendors are unfortunately much slower to deliver. Few vendors offer a truly integrated cross-channel solution.

What work still needs to be done? 

Vendors need to architect solutions that include multichannel rather than combine legacy systems with an after-market “integration.” The results of these two solutions are dramatically different and will have a direct effect on efficiencies and ultimately return on investment.

How can retailers work around these challenges? 

The best tip I can provide would be to determine your priorities and set reasonable expectations for yourself and your vendor based on those. If speed is your priority, find a vendor that offers a multichannel solution out of the box and take it as it is. If this is the route you choose, don’t expect to modify the software within a short time period.

On the other hand, if features and customizations are your priority, find a vendor that offers a solution with the architecture and platform you are looking for, out of the box, along with a feature set closest to what you need. Don’t attempt to customize the architecture or build the integration from the ground up, but customize features instead, or modify existing integrations if possible. Most importantly, leave ample time for your vendor to develop these modifications and for yourself to review and approve the completed work.

What other trends are you seeing in the industry? 

Another hot topic is RFID technology being applied at the POS or retail store back office. RFID has real-life applications in the warehousing environment, but it should also be incorporated into the entire product life cycle with receiving, transfers, sales, returns, etc. Our RFID applications allow for reduced transaction time at the POS, as well as more precise inventory tracking and more efficient transfers. We look forward to the near future, when in-store security and visual up-selling will be considered standard RFID features that will change the retail store environment forever.

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