Live from eTail 2004: Breaking Down Multichannel Silos

Hollywood, FL–During her presentation at e-Tail 2004 here, Katie Kean, vice president of the WebSphere Commerce Application and Integration Middleware division for IBM Software Group, discussed some of the key multichannel issues that brick-and-mortar retailers need to consider in running their Websites in conjunction with their other marketing channels.

Multichannel marketing “is all about increasing customer loyalty and revenue,” Kean said. “Everything we do in retailing puts the customer at the forefront. So for retailers, it’s about channel transparency. Their customers don’t know about channels and don’t care. They buy from brands.”

But to serve customers the way they want to be served, multichannel marketers have to do a better job breaking down the internal barriers between the catalog, online, and brick-and-mortar units of their businesses. And one of the biggest inhibitors for retailers is overcoming organizational silos, Kean said. “This is what everyone talks about privately, not publicly,” she said, “to have greater cooperation among channels” so that marketers can provide customers with seamless shopping experiences.

Kean noted that customers expect marketers across the different channels to have the same access to information that the shoppers themselves have online. “Consumers demand that you know who they are and what they want.” If a customer orders something online, she said, then calls a company’s telephone sales rep to ask a question about that order, the customer “doesn’t want to get bounced around from rep to rep forcing her to repeat the same information to each rep.”

A simpler example is the ability for customers to order online or through a call center and be able to pick up the order at their nearby store. “That requires cross-channel cooperation,” Kean said. “And it’s a continuous operation that doesn’t happen overnight.”

To make multichannel shopping more seamless for customers, marketers must develop a consumer-centric process “that doesn’t just translate or transform across channels, but transcends them,” Kean continued. “The talk is no longer so much about tracking products through the supply chain, but tracking customers through their buying processes. And it’s the online divisions that have to drive that transformation.”

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