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Multi-channel future for retail

Multi-channel retailing is set to grow fivefold among the UK's major retailers in the next five years, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by retail consultancy Martec International, was based on responses from senior retail and business executives from companies which accounted for £50bn (43%) of UK retail sales last year.

It forecast that by 2006, Internet, digital television, kiosks and mobile commerce channels will account for nearly 10% of all sales, compared to just 2% today.

The survey also showed that 63% of retailers are implementing or planning a digital TV offering and 55% are looking at interactive online kiosks in stores.

Martec said the move to multiple electronic channels is being driven by the retailers' need to maximise customer contact through an increasing range of access options. Ease of use (95%) and availability (82%) were seen as the most important benefits to the customer and were reflected by the aggressive rise of digital TV.

Retailers said the major challenges in the move to multi-channel were the implementation of customer facing systems (68%) and their integration with each other and the core retailing organisation (61%). Consistent customer handling, particularly between Internet and the call centre was viewed as critical.

"While new channels currently account for less than 2% of UK sales, retailers are convinced it will grow rapidly and that they should invest now to maintain a strong position," said Frances Risely, managing consultant at Martec.


Daniel Thomas

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