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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2745 - February 22, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    3 of 3

Hybris President Steven Kramer on Multichannel Selling Challenges

By Ina Steiner
February 22, 2012

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Most consumers shop on multiple channels these days and expect to get the same information, level of service and buying experience across all of those channels. Hybris has been powering the global commerce operations of some of the world's biggest retail and manufacturing brands since 1997 including Adidas, Lufthansa, Douglas, Reebok, and Ericsson. Hybris President of North America Steven Kramer discusses the challenges of multichannel selling, including how big brand clients view marketplaces like eBay and Amazon and offers advice for small merchants with limited resources.

What is multichannel selling, and how important is it?

Steven Kramer: The best way to describe multichannel selling is from a customer perspective. As the customer, you are not only interested in finding product information, but also the most convenient way to purchase that item. From a merchant perspective, multichannel selling is the ability to offer consumers a consistent experience across multiple channels; creating an environment where customers can start researching in one channel and purchase in another.

In other words, the customer is in control and expectations run high. Retailers of all sizes are now expected to have a multichannel strategy in place. For example, when you look at new merchants, their multichannel strategy is growing significantly. They have been able to embrace various channels like social and mobile from the ground up.

What do you advise merchants with fewer than 10 employees, including mom-and-pop, online-only sellers, who want to be "everywhere" but have limited resources?

Steven Kramer: The key is to select a platform that allows for self-sufficiency. It's also important for smaller merchants to have the ability to leverage content management systems and other tools that enable them to present products and transactions across multiple levels. Small organizations only require more people if their tools are not flexible and robust enough to perform the job efficiently.

The second part is that smaller merchants can leverage third-parties to run social channels or organizations to handle SEO and marketing initiatives. Merchants of any size can run a leading operation by having the right tools and partners in place.

What are some pitfalls to multi-channel selling, and how do you avoid them?

Steven Kramer: The biggest pitfall is that consumers are extremely sensitive to any issue that might occur during the purchasing process. If a website isn't working, customers might comment about their experience via Facebook. Moving into a multichannel strategy requires flawless execution and significant planning. Consumers expect a consistent experience among each channel.

Pricing strategies can also be a pitfall. If a customer can make a purchase online for less than what it is in-store, this can cause problems. Pricing parity is mandatory for consistent product offerings. A singular message should be applied across all channels.

How does Google's ban on duplicate content affect multi-channel sellers, and what do you tell your clients to do in order to cope?

Steven Kramer: It's an issue and has to be planned really well. Customers that run multiple websites with the same catalogue should have a different URL for marketing purposes. Duplicate content can be managed through next-generation commerce software. Merchants need to have the toolset to control and adapt to SEO strategy for the needs of the organization.

Do you have advice on pricing strategies across multiple channels?

Steven Kramer: My best piece of advice is to keep pricing the same across channels; however, it's acceptable to have different promotions running online and in-store. Sometimes specific offers are only applicable to online orders, such as free shipping. Just make sure the promotion isn't too radical for a specific channel.

Can you give us an example of a great multi-channel retailer, and what makes them so effective?

Steven Kramer: Nestle Nespresso launched its hybris application globally in 20 different languages. The company offers a unique customer experience by allowing customers to seamlessly shop online, in-store (linked with POS systems), and browse on a mobile device or even dial into a call center. When ordering products online, Nespresso can tell the customer what transactions they placed in-store and when they should rescale their machine.

Hybris has a lot of big brand clients, how do they view marketplaces like eBay and Amazon? Are they more challenge or more opportunity in terms of brand reputation and pricing?

Steven Kramer: eBay and Amazon represent both a challenge and opportunity for big brand retailers; however, the opportunity trumps the challenge as long as retailers take advantage of their strengths. One of (retailers') major advantages is brick-and-mortar stores. If a consumer wants a product that day, chances are, they can get it. A "buy online, pick up in store" strategy offers brands this advantage over marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Moreover, why couldn't a retailer with a major brick-and-mortar presence offer same day delivery? If you can get a pizza delivered in 30 minutes, why not the printer you ordered from a local office superstore, too? Retailers can compete with Amazon's price advantage by offering convenience and a better customer experience. It's a matter of getting beyond outmoded organizational structures and putting the right technology in place - which exists today.

Steven Kramer is the President of North America at hybris, a multichannel commerce software vendor. In his role, Steven is responsible for running business in the Americas. Prior to hybris, Steven was President and co-founder of iCongo, Inc., where he led the company in a continuous cycle of innovation and growth, enabling iCongo to become a leading provider of cross-channel eCommerce systems. He's recognized globally for receiving the Sam Steinberg Award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which honors talented and creative business leaders driving success in innovative new businesses and in growing established leaders within the community.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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