Consistent Customer Experience Across Channels Top Priority For Retailers - Survey

Provider's poll shows order fulfillment a difficult challenge, global inventory visibility seen as potential solution

Provider's poll shows order fulfillment a difficult challenge, global inventory visibility seen as potential solution

Chicago — May 21, 2004 — Delivering consistent customer experience across channels is the top priority for North American retailers, according to an executive survey released this week.

The survey of 100 mid-level and senior executives from 94 major retailers, conducted by retail solutions specialist Yantra, revealed that retailers view the successful integration of multiple channels as yielding higher customer satisfaction, increased revenue and more efficient operations.

Results of the survey, released at the Retail Systems Conference here this week, also showed that 77 percent of participants view order fulfillment as a significant challenge and look to supply chain systems, especially those that enable global inventory visibility, to address this problem.

"There is a clear connection between effectively managing order fulfillment processes and delivering a consistent customer experience," said Hunter Harris, Yantra's vice president of retail. "Both require integrated, global visibility across channels and into the supply chain."

Harris asserted that regardless of channel — in the store, on the Web or on the phone — retailers must provide up-to-date, accurate information about orders, shipments and inventory, or they stand to lose the sale. Many retailers, Harris added, are using packaged, best-of-breed supply chain applications as a way to provide a consistent and differentiated customer experience.

Achieving multi-channel integration and a consistent customer experience requires accurate, real-time information about orders, shipments and inventory. According to the survey, retailers' top initiatives are: automating purchase order management (70 percent), improving ability to track inventory in transit (50 percent) and upgrading warehouse management systems (50 percent). Retailers are also investing in IT systems that leverage data across channels.

Making the order fulfillment process more complex, retailers are offering new services to increase the size of their customer base. Among the services already in place: 58 percent of participants offer special order programs, 56 percent provide complimentary service offerings, such as delivery and installation, and 47 percent feature product customization capabilities.

In addition, the survey confirmed that the majority of retailers are multi-channel. According to the survey, retailers utilize traditional in-store sales (93 percent), while also taking orders over the Web (72 percent) and by phone (62 percent). Also, more than 35 percent make use of catalogs or mailings.

The majority of retailers (59 percent) seek applications the employ open architecture standards that support customization as their preferred approach to implementing solutions.

To conduct the survey, Yantra interviewed 100 mid-level and senior executives from 94 North American retailers, representing a range of product lines and formats. Companies participating in the study ranged in size from $300 million in annual revenue to several billion. Individual respondents included chief- and vice presdient-level executives, directors and managers responsible for such operational areas as IT, logistics, transportation, supply chain management and distribution. Yantra conducted the interviews by phone and e-mail between November 2003 and February 2004.