Multichannel Software: What’s Available Now

Some catalog management systems vendors have recently extended their solutions not only to encompass e-commerce but to embrace retail/point-of-sale (POS) management as well. Likewise, some retail systems vendors have added e-commerce and catalog management modules. These may prove to be the path of least resistance for some multichannel enterprises.

CommercialWare has a comprehensive solution called retail.dot.commerce, or RDC, which runs on the IBM AS/400 and includes modules for managing kiosks and wireless devices, as well as catalog, e-commerce, and retail sales. More than 80 companies, including Target, Saks Fifth Avenue, Starbucks, EBWorld.com, Disney, Brooks Brothers, J. Jill, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and Patagonia, use RDC. Target, for instance, uses RDC as an enterprisewide infrastructure for retail operations, including order management, customer service, inventory management, and merchandising. A new collaborate.dot.commerce module also facilitates supply-chain collaborative forecasting and planning.

Ecometry (formerly Smith-Gardner) offers the Ecometry Retail Enterprise suite of applications. It runs on the HP-3000 and offers a similar set of modules as CommercialWare’s RDC. In use at more than 300 companies, including Ethel M. Chocolates, Delia’s, Urban Outfitters, Brookstone, Frontgate, Nordstrom, RedEnvelope, and Barnes & Noble, Ecometry uses a multitier architecture with a “universal data interchange” component, written in C and C++, that uses a proprietary “talker/listener” methodology to exchange data between the order management core and modules (on NT or Unix) for e-commerce, campaign management, merchandise forecasting, and database analysis. Ecometry also offers some support for XML (extensible markup language) and Java interfaces for data exchange with external applications. But an independent vendor, Marketing Concepts, which provides a variety of services to Ecometry users, has developed a “middleware” module in C and C++ for Ecometry that provides a more “open,” fully enabled XML interface on a SQL Server platform to link Ecometry to any XML-enabled or SQL-compliant application.

Neither RDC nor Ecometry offers robust POS solutions, however. If you’re coming at this from the retail perspective, you should also take a look at retail solutions vendors that have multichannel modules. SVI has incorporated the MarketPlace Solutions catalog management package into its comprehensive suite of retail-oriented solutions, rebranding it as SVIDirect. SVI also has an E-Store module, plus a full range of merchandise management, logistics, accounting, and analytical tools.

GERS, with systems are written in Oracle, has a similar range of applications, including RetailDirect, a catalog management module, and RetailAlert, an enterprisewide workflow management module.

Taking a slightly different approach, Retek focuses on managing merchandise across the enterprise in all channels, with merchandise planning, forecasting, design, production, purchasing, logistics, instore merchandising, reverse logistics, and analysis tools. Although Retek does not support a POS solution per se, it does virtually everything else related to retail management and includes a robust catalog and Web order processing module. Users of Retek applications, such as J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Home Shopping Network, Family Dollar, Tupperware, Ames Department Stores, and Selfridge’s, are household names on several continents.

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