Direct commerce IT goes multi-channel

multi-channel retail

Delegates gathered in London today to discuss the technology trends associated with direct-to-consumer commercial business models.

A number of ECMOD presentations and exhibitors were focused on helping businesses manage a proliferation of customer-facing channels, the newest of which are mobile and social media.

[iIT Pro spoke to Michael Ross, founder of e-commerce service provider and integrator eCommera who was also former chief executive at online lingerie retailer Figleaves, about the challenges of managing a business with multiple customer-facing challenges.

"We're in a world of so-called 'big data,' where we need to turn that data into meaningful insight," Ross said. "The problem with the big platform vendors is that they are trying to come up with generic approaches to managing this trend across industries."

But Ross said the emergence of multichannel retail and direct commerce businesses, driven particularly by continued growth online and new growth via mobile devices, presented very specific challenges.

"There are business intelligence and analytics packages out there," he added. "But I liken these to looking in a rear-view mirror, when what they want is a sat-nav that they programme with their destination, for it to use all that data to give them directions to get there."

While handling increased amounts of data from proliferating channels was the show's key theme when it came to optimising the customer proposition, cloud computing and hosted IT delivery models were hot topics insofar as new IT procurement plans were concerned.

Retail software firm Maginus was, for example, on hand to demonstrate its hosted multichannel and e-commerce software offerings.

"We're finding that people in this market are certainly looking to cloud so they don't have to manage back-office and customer-facing systems themselves," said Russell Dorset, Maginus sales and marketing director.

"Having to anticipate and manage seasonal demand, like now near to Christmas, means site hosting for example is also popular," he added.

"There are some retailers that are still reticent with their views on cloud, but that attitude is definitely changing, particularly on the e-commerce side." The company has been hosting the e-commerce website of fashion retailer French Connection UK on a "buy-as-you-go" basis for the last 18 months for instance.

Maginus, which resells and develops on the Microsoft Dynamics business management platform, said even here Microsoft's 2012 Dynamics update will be contain multichannel management improvements.

"Retailers want to be able to add new channels with greater flexibility and manage demand more dynamically," Dorset added. "Multichannel and cloud are becoming more and more to what we do."

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.