short takes

Plug and Play? Not yet, although retailers wish they could. Ideally, a customer would be able to buy anything from anywhere – a brick-and-mortar store, the Web, a catalog, a kiosk – at any time, and return it the same way. In real life, though, direct merchants are beset with hardware and software incompatibilities when they try to integrate the systems that run their selling outlets.

Several studies attempt to quantify the level of integration that retailers have achieved and to suggest strategies for making multichannel operations more efficient. Among the more useful reports are those from LakeWest Group, a management consulting firm specializing in retail and consumer products. “Integrated Channel Retailing,” a white paper issued in September 2000, does an exemplary job of defining the factors you must consider to pull the different components of your business together. It isn’t just about systems, as many merchants think; rather, it’s a whole series of technology, business, and customer service initiatives.

Given the breadth of an integration project, it is hardly surprising that few merchants have come even close to achieving the widely stated goal of seamless commerce across all channels. In its “Retail Channel Integration Survey,” a study of 57 retailers operating both Web sites and brick-and-mortar stores, LakeWest Group concludes that “considerable work remains” before merchants can fully enjoy the benefits of using multiple venues to attract customers. For example, only 8.8% of respondents offer the same product selection on the Internet that they do in their stores, and a meager 3.6% enable customers to verify whether an item is available in a store while they are shopping online.

For more information, contact LakeWest Group, Key Tower, 22nd Floor, 127 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44114; phone: (216) 535-4000; e-mail:; Web site:

Partner Content

Hincapie Sportswear Finds Omnichannel Success in the Cloud - Netsuite
For more and more companies, a cloud-based unified data solution is the way to make this happen. Custom cycling apparel maker Hincapie Sportswear has leveraged this capability to gain greater visibility into revenue streams, turning opportunities into sales more quickly while gaining overall operating efficiency. Download this ecommerce special report from Multichannel Merchant to more.
The Gift of Wow: Preparing your store for the holiday season - Netsuite
Being prepared for the holiday rush used to mean stocking shelves and making sure your associates were ready for the long hours. But the digital revolution has changed everything, most importantly, customer expectations. Retailers with a physical store presence should be asking themselves—what am I doing to wow the customer?
3 Critical Components to Achieving the Perfect Order - NetSuite
Explore the 3 critical components to delivering the perfect order.
Streamlining Unified Commerce Complexity - NetSuite
Explore how consolidating multiple systems through a cloud-based commerce platform provides a seamless experience for both you, and your customer.