Fast Forward

“We won’t be talking about e-business next year,” declares Gartner analyst Jeff Roster.

Huh? We knew dot-coms were dying, but have they gone forever? Take heart. What Roster means that e-business is so integral a part of commerce today that you should no longer think of it as a separate entity. And, he says, commenting on Gartner’s 12th annual retail technology study for RIS News, that’s the reason for IT’s newfound glamour. Running integrated, multichannel operations has woken up the normally sleepy retail business to the necessity of upgrading hardware and software, and using technology to succeed in new ways of doing business.

Titled “Retail Rebound: IT Initiatives Grow Aggressive,” the study is an eye-opener in many ways. For example, unlike other retail budgets, IT has continued to grow despite the economic downturn, with 2002 budgets averaging a 3% increase over last year. Also, retailers are putting that money into some surprising new applications. CRM has made a strong comeback: 44% of the 300 retail executives who responded to the survey anticipate expanding their CRM capabilities by the end of this year, and 19% plan to do so in 2003. The “customer” in CRM has taken on new meaning — a full 61% of the retailers surveyed plan to upgrade their call center technology by 2003. Real-time multichannel integration is another top priority. Forty-three percent of the respondents expect to be actively involved in an integration project by next year.

More retail IT initiatives are in the works. Supply chain enhancement, for years a key concern among retailers, is gaining momentum among the respondents. A string of upgrades is slated for this year, such as installation of advanced warehouse management systems (40%) and programs to improve inbound visibility (36%), import management/tracking (36%), and transport management (33%). The importance of streamlining fulfillment has never been greater, notes the RIS News/Gartner report: “Through 2004, enterprises that leverage technology for fulfillment strategies will get 40% greater business value by retaining more customers, attracting repeat business, and providing value-added strategies.”

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