Representatives from 100 of the UK's top retailers yesterday voted overwhelmingly for a future that includes multi-channel retail strategies.

89% of retailers attending the Forrester Multi-Channel Retail Workshop at the Financial Times offices in London indicated that they would have a multi-channel strategy in place within the next year, while 75% recognised that product information management is "critical" to the development of their businesses.

The workshop was co-sponsored by IBM and enterprise software company Zygon. A survey carried out by Zygon suggested that 44% of retailers believe such a strategy will deliver customer retention and increased revenue. A fully automated, cross-department system with no human intervention will also reduce company costs.

Jaap Favier, Forrester Research Director and keynote speaker, told workshop delegates: "Retailers will have to implement and manage all channels, but there will be a company-wide return on investment. Companies should not expect single parts of their multi-channel operations to deliver returns: some channels will make money, others won't."
 
The retailers, which included Asda, Harrods and Marks and Spencer, identified several key challenges to overcome however, including consistency of production information and a lack of streamlining across channels.

Peter Landale, founder and CEO of Zygon, explained: "Most retailers recognise that they must give consumers the ability to buy through whichever channels they prefer and that product information is a critical requirement in a virtual marketplace. As the range of electronic channels increases, however, many companies are finding it difficult to integrate across multiple channels.

"By far the biggest problem is providing a consistent message through online and offline channels."