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terms that refer to integrating ‘across channels,’ obtaining an ‘omnichannel’ or even ‘no channel’ view of customers, have been added, but all are technology enabled. David Hogg, North East Europe commerce solutions lead at IBM, said these terms all address common strategic challenges retailers face today. “With consumers more connected, demanding and engaged than ever before, buying patterns often become hidden across diverse brand interactions, while fulfi lment processes become more complex,” he said. “The key to staying in tune with these hidden patterns is integration across all consumer channels. “Analysing data held across all core systems – purchase and return history, complaints, value of purchases, customer types (loyal, only shops in sales, prefers shopping on the web etc.) – enables an accurate, contextual picture of the customer. By integrating this information with all product data, retailers can answer questions such as, ‘What is the next contact we should make with John Smith?’ and also make targeted suggestions such as, ‘Offer John Smith a discount on product X with a specifi c warranty plan and free installation.’ The future of retail will be about this type of technology-enabled, micro-targeted service.” Tony Bryant, head of business


development at retail software vendor K3 Retail, said the term ‘omnichannel’ refl ects the fact that retailers will be able to interact with customers through countless channels – websites, physical stores, direct mail and catalogues, call centres, social media, mobile devices, gaming consoles, televisions and

he term ‘multichannel’ fi rst entered retail parlance with the arrival of e-commerce. Since then, similar

more. “Unless conventional merchants adopt an entirely new perspective – one that allows them to integrate disparate channels into a single seamless omnichannel experience – they are likely to be swept away, he warned. “Improved search tools, access to user reviews, instant price comparisons, active social networks and more are fundamentally changing shopping,” Bryant added. “Computers, smartphones and tablets provide access to endless sources

retailer. Devendra Kumar, Barclaycard global payment acceptance product director, commented: “Innovation in technology means that retailers have more ways to reach customers than ever, from online shopping baskets and in-store touch screens, to their mobile phones. Consumers too expect a faster, more tailored retail experience that such technologies can offer. The challenge for retailers is to ensure the experience across channels is seamless and simple, and that is most important at the point of the payment transaction.” Kumar said payment processing technology needs to remain appropriate to the sale and the customer: “For example, contactless and mobile payments are great for fast moving, lower spend purchases; while online is a safe way of shopping for higher- ticket items. Not all consumers will adopt newer ways of paying simultaneously, so maintaining choice will remain key, particularly for those retailers operating in international markets. While it may not be the transaction that ensures customer loyalty to a retailer’s business, a bad payment experience could be a strong enough reason for them not to return.” Networks sit alongside payments as multichannel

of information that help consumers decide what to buy and where to buy it. And retailers increasingly rely on evolving technologies such as integrated inventory software, radio frequency identifi cation (RFID) tags and quick response (QR) codes to better manage inventory and offer new services. Retailers will fi nd that the digital and physical arenas complement each other instead of competing, thereby increasing sales and lowering costs.” Supporting technologies also have an important role to play in any multichannel

*Poll of 500 small and midsized businesses conducted by on behalf of TalkTalk Business RETAIL TECHNOLOGY MARCH/APRIL 2012

enablers. Lance Spencer, product manager for TalkTalk Business, said: “As multichannel retailers embrace the latest technology, it’s important to remember that the solution is only as strong as the connectivity supporting it, including electronic point-of-sale (EPoS) and increased e-commerce functionality. Our research* revealed that 92% of internet shoppers look for an alternative if their preferred website experiences technical problems and only 25% would revisit an e-commerce site and re-attempt a failed transaction.”

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