A comprehensive Gartner survey of retailers in the US and Western Europe has revealed that multiple sales channels is fundamental to retail success.
Nearly 75 per cent of the 375 retailers surveyed claimed to have a multi-channel retail strategy in place. Gartner defines a multi-channel strategy as one that includes kiosks, wireless channels, catalogues and the Internet in addition to physical stores.
The survey showed that 27 per cent of respondents are discussing plans for such a strategy internally while 14 per cent are discussing such plans with technology providers.
The research indicates that the retail vertical should be a hotbed of opportunity for the IT industry - with retailers naming point-of-sale systems (67 per cent), supply chain management systems (13 per cent) and customer relationship management systems (11 per cent) among their most valuable assets.
Forty five per cent of respondents plan to replace, re-engineer, upgrade or develop their Web site in the near future, while just under 40 per cent are planning to do the same for point-of-sale systems and database management systems.
"The online retail channel and the physical retail channel are no longer viewed by retailers as mutually exclusive," said Fred Landis, director of Gartner Consulting's market and business strategies practice. "Vendors of retail technology and services must recognise this change and approach retailers with an integrated solution that addresses both channels."
Martin Gilliland, senior analyst for Gartner in Australia, believes most of the results can be translated to the Australian business environment. "I suspect that countries such as Australia, Singapore and New Zealand would come out with fairly similar results," he said. "For retailers the decisions are moving much farther beyond just stocking shelves."
The only exception, he said, would be wireless channels. He thinks the adoption of such technology in Australia will be slower than the rest of the world. "Australians like things to be done very well before they move to it en masse," he said. "Unlike New Zealand for example, Australians are not going to test a technology on behalf of the US."
In a recent interview with ARN, Ron Harris of Harris Technology said the most successful retailers in the future will be those that have a closer all-round relationship with their customers. "For me, that means providing multiple channels," he said. "Good phone service, good e-mail handling, many physical points of presence, open seven days a week and a good Web site. You need to be able to interact with customers if they make inquiries through any of those mediums."