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New Study Examines E-Commerce Strategies

Forrester Research, Inc. said it released a report that details how businesses can effectively take advantage of retailing online by marrying e-commerce initiatives with existing business operations.

"The Commerce Integration Imperative" study recommends that companies choose e-commerce integration strategies that blend operations such as inventory management, order processing, financials, and customer service.

Forrester contends that cohesive e-commerce integration strategies are necessary in order to align online transactions with products, service delivery, turnaround, and performance. While clients and the market as a whole expect such features, many businesses also get bogged down with extra e-commerce features that can hamper resources and systems, according to Forrester.

Customer experience is the key indicator in measuring successful e-commerce services and features, according to the report's findings. Effective incorporation of existing company systems can relate whether customers are receiving consistent information and treatment, whether orders come from the Web, the phone or in person. Forrester said that if companies neglect fluid integration, the e-commerce site might complicate customer relations and actually decrease the quality of service.

"The key to a cost-effective integration strategy is to explicitly match the level of investment and complexity of the undertaking to the needs of the business, the dynamics of the market, and customer expectations," said Bob Chatham, senior analyst in Forrester's Commerce Technology Strategies service and author of the report. "Unfortunately, few on-line commerce operations have laid out a big picture for fully integrating their site into existing business operations."

The report offers three strategy profiles including: Opportunistic, recommended as a good entry for companies on limited budgets, basic technology and modest goals; Proactive, for more advanced e-commerce strategies and gaining additional back-end systems in order to provide more complete Web-based business services; and Market Defining, aimed at companies wishing to be on the cutting edge of e-commerce.

"Commerce integration is a process, not a project," added Chatham. "Companies should be prepared to constantly evaluate their status, make incremental refinements in their processes, and switch to a new trajectory as customer and systems demands change. Successful companies will continuously seek to add value to their sites by learning what their customers are doing and adapting to their needs."



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