Study says retailers face big challenges from multichannel

March 17, 2014

Organizational, operational and technology challenges are hampering retailers' efforts to meet customers' demand for a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touch points, according to a new research study from Accenture and hybris software.

Retailers view omnichannel maturity as a key brand differentiator for their companies, and improving their ability to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels as a top priority, according to the study, "Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omnichannel Commerce Gap," conducted by Forrester Consulting. However, the study shows that nearly all (94 percent) of retail decision-makers surveyed as part of the research said that their companies face significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel company.

The study is based on an online survey commissioned by Accenture and hybris, and was conducted by Forrester Consulting with more than 1,500 multichannel shoppers and 256 decision-makers from retail and manufacturing organizations across the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The survey also found that 71 percent of the shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50 percent expect to buy online and pick up their purchase in a physical store. Yet, only one-third (36 percent) of the retail decision-makers surveyed said that their companies are able to provide customers with in-store pickup of online purchases, online visibility of cross-channel inventory, and store-based fulfillment of online orders. All of these capabilities are considered vital for seamless retailing.

"Thirty-nine percent of customers surveyed say they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer's store if its website does not provide physical store inventory information," said Chris Donnelly, Accenture global managing director of retail practice. "[T]he research also shows that retailers who struggle to implement robust seamless capabilities online also experience challenges meeting customer expectations in offline channels. So this is a particularly big challenge that requires immediate attention."

According to the survey, 40 percent of retailers reported that they are having difficulty integrating backoffice technology across all of their channels.

"As customers expect retailers to provide consistent and contextual service across every channel and interaction, retailers need to adopt new technologies that enable this critical transformation to omni-channel customer engagement and service," said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at hybris. "This is going to be vital to meeting customers' expectations and, frankly, survival for retailers."

Although 46 percent of decision makers surveyed said they already have a dedicated omni-channel team — one that includes members of all functions — conflicting priorities and organizational silos remain a key challenge. Two additional key barriers identified as preventing retailers from becoming an integrated omnichannel company are difficulty in sharing customer data and analytics between channels, countries or locations and a lack of in-store associate training.

According to the research, in-store pickup of purchases by consumers emerged as a key capability that brick-and-mortar retailers must be able to provide their customers if they expect to compete effectively against online-only retailers. Nearly half (47 percent) of the customers surveyed said they use in-store-pickup options to avoid online shipping costs; 25 percent so they can collect their order on the day of purchase; and 10 percent simply because they find it more convenient to pick items from a store than having them shipped to their home.

Topics: Consumer Behavior , Omnichannel / Multichannel , Online Retailing , Technology

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