Most Large Retailers a Year-plus Away from Cross-Channel Execution: Study

Most retailers are more than 12 months away from automating their cross-channel processes and achieving global order, shipment, and inventory visibility across all channels to deliver that experience, according to a new study by Sterling Commerce.

"Shoppers see retailers as one brand--they don't think in terms of multiple channels," said Jim Bengier, global retail industry executive for Sterling Commerce. "Shoppers don't care how difficult or challenging it is for retailers to organize their companies to meet their needs. This survey shows that retailers without cross-channel execution plans already in place will soon be left behind. But, there are opportunities to leapfrog the competition by automating cross-channel processes and achieving global order, shipment, and inventory visibility across all channels."

The survey, conducted by Multi-Channel Merchant and Sterling Commerce, included data collected from 100 retailers with annual revenue of more than $250 million. In a follow-on survey of 115 retailers who reviewed the survey findings, 98 percent agreed that a retailer's inability to meet its customers' cross-channel expectations threatens customer loyalty and competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

Although 81 percent of retailers surveyed are fully or partially integrated across all of their sales channels (store, call center, Web site, kiosk, and catalog, if applicable), many are still not delivering innovative cross-channel capabilities such as allowing consumers to buy online or through a call center and pick up or return to a store.

Only 43 percent of retailers polled have an automated process that allows customers to pick up their orders in the store regardless of the purchasing channel. Only slightly more (48 percent) have an automated process that allows customers to return their orders to the store regardless of the channel through which it was purchased.

Successful cross-channel execution can also mean saving the sale in an out-of-stock situation by providing product availability information across channels, and automating the process could be a differentiator, the study found. Two-thirds of retailers surveyed indicated that in the next 12 months they'll have the ability to view on-hand, in-transit, and available-to-promise inventory at each location via a single mechanism. Slightly less than two-thirds (60 percent) said they will have in place in the next 12 months an automated process that enables store associates to find an out-of-stock item at another store location or distribution center and arrange for the product to be held for customer pick-up or shipped to the customer's home.

Columbus, Ohio-based Sterling Commerce provides solutions for business process integration, multi-channel selling, and supply chain fulfillment.
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