At the NRF Annual Convention: the empowerment of multichannel marketers

New York—For those few marketers who still don’t believe that the more channels the merrier, the National Retail Federation Annual Convention featured a session of multichannel success stories, “The Internet’s Impact in a Multichannel Retailing Environment.” Moderator Margaret Georgiadis, principal at consultancy McKinsey & Co., noted that shoppers at office supplies superstore chain Staples, which also operates the Quill and Staples catalogs and Websites, who use two of the three channels spend 50% more than those who use just one channel. More impressive still, customers who use all three channels spend twice as much as unichannel shoppers. Georgiadis quickly added that in today’s retail environment, “the challenge is how to manage across channels, not how to grow quickly.”

Panelist Sally McKenzie, division vice president for the i-media unit of apparel cataloger/retailer Eddie Bauer, said that “we have more hard evidence of true multichannel shopping, which speaks to strategic planning. Our biggest move has been to look at our P&L across all channels, running it a lot of different ways, now taking our online business into account.”

Like many other multichannel operations, Eddie Bauer maintains an independent team to manage its Website. But that team works closely with the catalog and retail teams, with the catalog merchants making merchandise decisions with the dot-com team’s input. On the marketing side, the catalog/direct organization also decides how to spend acquisition dollars and e-commerce money.

Federated Direct, which includes the Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s Websites, maintains a separate online division, said chief merchandising officer Dawn Robertson. All the same, “our Websites and catalogs are reflections of our stores,” she explained, “with the sites empowering customers to shop at the stores” when customers don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar counterpart.

Denise Incandela, chief operating officer for Saks Direct, said that the company will continue to operate as a three-channel marketer even after it closes its Folio mail order catalog unit in February. Saks will mail a store traffic-driver catalog to many customers from its Folio database, she said.

With the demise of the mail order business, Saks this year has started fulfilling Web orders in its stores. “This is the first time we’ll approach customers as one Saks,” Incandela said. “We’re going to be better targeted and offer better customer service with full data warehouse integration across all our marketing channels.”

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