To optimize online benefits to in-store shoppers, North American retailers must roll out Web-enabled devices to offline shops. According to a new Report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), retailers must implement kiosks and Web-enabled point-of-sale (POS) systems to supplement face-to-face service and sell product available solely through the Web. To manage these new multiple endpoints, merchants will need a channel manager to automate translation of Web selling tools for use in brick-and-mortar shops.

“To prepare themselves for this new set of in-store devices, merchants will need what Forrester calls a channel manager — a software tool that brings the basic benefits of online selling tools into stores,” said Seema Williams, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Channel managers will translate online tools and content to new outputs, add intelligence for cross-channel personalization, and transmit information beyond the brick-and-mortar store via mobile devices.”

Determining which devices and tools to use will require retailers to map their products to the most appropriate applications. Retailers will have to employ channel integrators that will work with eCommerce design firms to create new interfaces that will not only be appropriate for in-store kiosks, but also remain consistent with the online brand. To automate the conversion of Web-based content and applications for new devices, retailers will need to get aggressive about features and descriptions.

Once the channel manager is capable of communicating with all in-store devices, merchants will need it to intelligently select offers and escalate services based on individual profiles. By 2002, the channel manager will connect promotions according to what customers are buying both on- and offline and endorse both while a consumer surfs a retailer’s Web site. The channel manager will also provide post-sale service to each device based on individual customer needs.

By 2003, retailers will take the final step of adding PDA and mobile efforts to the channel manager. In addition to translating tools and offering device-specific intelligence, retailers will require the channel manager to translate selling tools like gift registries, comparison engines, and shopping lists to mobile devices and interactive TV. To do so, it will need to integrate with a plethora of operating systems and protocols.

“Retailers do not have the skill to build channel managers — it is imperative that they look to the technology industry for help,” added Williams. “They will need content management tools that present to multiple devices, as well as analytics service providers to help create channel-based rules.”

For the Report “Mixing Bricks With Clicks,” Forrester interviewed 30 executives at brick-and-mortar retailers that also sell online. Eighty-three percent of respondents find that offering multiple channels result in overall increase in sales. In addition, 80% of retailers plan to roll out kiosks by 2002.