Web project management can be a challenge for the most experienced project managers, much less for relative newcomers, and when e-commerce is involved, the stakes are that much higher. 

With this in mind we recently commissioned e-commerce expert Martin Newman to compile a best practice report to help steer you down the right path, called 'Delivering Successful E-commerce Projects'. It has more than 400 individual recommendations and is a terrific investment for anybody working in this area (as with all of our research, it is priced at just £150 / $215, or is free for Econsultancy subscribers).

The report focuses on client-side challenges, supplier challenges, and joint challenges. I thought I'd give you a taste of what's contained within the guide by publishing a few extracts. Here's the first one, which focuses on multichannel integration.

Multichannel Integration

Changes in retail are being driven by the consumer, as well as by the proliferation of new channels and the increased choice that this provides. Retailers are having to rethink their business models to find new ways to interact with customers to add more value to the overall shopping experience.

Consumers are now very much empowered by technology. They can choose where to buy, and who to buy from, with tremendous ease. As such it has never been easier to lose a customer. Your competitors are never more than two or three clicks away. 

Quite simply it is no longer enough to just be aware of your customer. You need to understand them and to accommodate their needs and behaviour. Make it easy for consumers to find and interact with your brand (online, offline, kiosks, stores, mobile, catalogues, telephone…).

Nowadays consumers demand a good experience, and they won’t tolerate a bad one. As such you must deliver a fantastic experience across all touchpoints, seamlessly. Remember that if you don’t, your competitors will have the chance to impress…

It's probably a good time to mention our training team, which has a course on Multichannel Marketing taking place next week, should you need it (there's one on in October too).

Best practice recommendations for multichannel integration:

  1. Joined-up thinking. E-commerce is all too often still thought of as a silo, and is therefore thought of in isolation. Whether you’re developing an e-commerce solution for your business for the first time or moving on to the next iteration of your site, it is the optimum time to think about integrating all of your channels.
  2. Engage your call centres. Are you going to provide your contact centre with the ability to take sales from customers over the phone? What happens if the site’s down or if they need additional assistance to help ensure they buy the right product? It’s a great idea to enable operator supported orders.
  3. Assist shoppers, in real time. Live chat will enable your customer contact centre to help guide your customer’s choices. This can be both reactive, through a ‘click to chat option’, or proactive through ‘rules based live chat’. In the latter case you prompt a customer with the offer of chatting to a CSA (customer service advisor) when they behave in a certain way (such as adding multiple items to their basket but not checking out).
  4. Visibility. You should develop the capability for the customer and the CSA to view the same cart concurrently.
  5. Collect information. In order to deliver the optimum customer service experience, you should funnel all customer communication into a customer contact database.
  6. Provision for self-service. Provide a knowledge base/dynamic FAQs that will serve the needs of self service customers who prefer not to interact with CSAs.
  7. Provide a store locator showing store product ranges available at each store, and use Google Maps to provide all contact information.
  8. Buy in store for home delivery. This could be through a Kiosk solution in store that’s provided to meet demand when there’s a shortage of stock, specific  sizes, or particular styles in a store.
  9. Click and collect. Allow customers to buy or reserve products online and pick them up in store. You should also allow customers to reserve products in store for purchase in store. Enable customers to select from a list of stores by their proximity for in store pick up.
  10. Multichannel returns policy. Provide the ability to buy products online and return in store. Make sure offline budgets reflect this to avoid staff resentment at having to do extra work, and do not subtract these offline refunds from offline sales! Give the store a credit for multichannel refunds (but manage it to avoid abuse).
  11. Is it in stock? Allow customers to check product inventory levels at nearby stores. Save them a wasted journey.
  12. Don’t hide the telephone! Promote contact centre number prominently above top navigation and at key stages on the purchase path. Let customers know that help is only a phone call or a click away.
  13. Multichannel commissions for staff. Make sure staff are incentivised to promote the sale of products through all of your channels... otherwise why should they bother?
Do you agree? What did we miss? Leave your comments below...
Chris Lake

Published 12 March, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)


duane cardwell

Great information. Would be really interested in an article on the topic of "rules of engagement for companies who sell exclusively through dealers". We have a couple clients caught in the tension between selling direct via ecommerce, and remaining loyal to their dealer network. One makes good use of Shopatron's services, but another feels direct sales engagement, even on that level, could compromise their relationship with local dealers/retailers.

over 9 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Good question Duane. It came up recently for me too, for a clothing brand that wants to develop its own e-commerce store. How will its retailer network react...? I'll give it some thought and ask a few people what they think.



over 9 years ago


Erica Forrette

Good ideas but I would even take it a step further.  Especially for chains like us who have hundreds of storefronts across the US, you can push for even more  multichannel integration to benefit both stores & web sites:

  • bag stuffers driving people from stores to web site
  • inserts featuring in-store offers packed into outbound ecomm orders
  • cashiers collecting email addresses at store cash registers
  • using mobile blasts and geotargeted email to drive people to instore events
  • online order thank you page offering coupon offer for in-store
  • offer for web site printed at the bottom of cash register receipts

I also agree with and highly recommend your last point re: incentivizing sales staff for multichannel sales.  Often I think retail folks think a company's web site may be cannibalizing their potential sales.  When in reality, each complements the other. 

over 9 years ago


Todd Jensen

Great comments everyone...this is a of course a nascent industry and presents all sorts of challenges that retailers and wholesalers alike have not had to contend with historically.  Personally, I feel it's an exciting time with all sorts of new challenges which open a ton of opportunities for solution providers, retailers and consumers alike.  

Traditionally, this sort of thing has been restricted (due to costs) to the larger retailers but with the advent of the internet and all the technology that is affordable & available today to the small mom & pop boutiques - anyone can compete and win in this arena & that's what this great country is all about.

Microsoft is leading the way in this area and the partner community has offers an array of bolt-on features for all sorts of things, but eCommerce is the area where we have seen a tremendous spike in interest. It's a vastly more economical and efficient way of doing business, but integration across all systems is critical for the business overall.  This is no small undertaking but the payoff comes in spades: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVjVwGAyknA

We hear all the time that the integrated solution NitroSell provides to our retailers in turn delivers increased foot traffic. Personally, I find it hard to take a retailer seriously if they don't have a decent web presence.

over 9 years ago


Johny wood

Point 7 is a very bad idea ! Google maps for business is a really poor and basic platform which delivers 3/10 for quality. The Map results for the UK are weak when it comes to a postcode search as Google does not hold a commercial license for mobiles and also for online business sites. A professional business would consider Bing or ViaMichelin as the coverage and functionality are much better. The Google basic service does not even provide Geocoding which is why the pin point is always way off and the results are never in distance order !

about 8 years ago

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