There is a major gap between what consumers expect and what retailers are providing them, according to a new study released today, with 94 percent of retail decision-makers surveyed saying that their companies are facing significant barriers to omni-channel commerce.
“Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap,” from Accenture and hybris software, an SAP company, peels back the onion to reveal that the difference between the omni-channel ideal and what retailers are currently able to achieve for customers is vast.
The study is based on an online survey, conducted by Forrester Consulting, of more than 1,500 multi-channel shoppers and 256 decision-makers from retail and manufacturing organizations across the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany.
Here are just a few of the data points:
- 71 percent of consumers feel information about in-store stock level to be critical to decision-making, while only 32 percent of retailers offer that information
- 50 percent of consumers want in-store pick-up for items purchased online or via mobile, but just 36 percent of retailers offer this service
- When in-store pick-up is available, 41 percent of shoppers want to pick up their item within an hour, and only 55 percent of retailers are capable of fulfilling that expectation
Each of these capabilities is vital for seamless retailing. In addition, 40 percent of retailers reported that they encounter barriers to integrating back-office technology across every channel. One of the most important aspects of this integration is the ability to see, in real-time, the inventory across stores and distribution centers.
“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,” says Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at hybris. “This is going to be vital to meeting customers’ expectations and, frankly, survival for retailers.”
Other challenges revealed by the study include conflicting priorities and organizational silos within retail organizations, as well as difficulty sharing customer data and analytics across channels, locations and countries.
The bottom line? Companies that fall behind customer expectations will suffer. But there is signifiant opportunity to turn the physical store into a strategic asset. In-store pick-up by consumers emerged as a way to effectively compete with online-only retailers. Almost half of all consumers surveyed said that they used in-store pick-up to avoid paying for shipping.
“Customers expect stores to be well integrated with all of a retailer’s digital capabilities, and to succeed, retailers must be able to serve customer needs regardless of how, when and where they shop,” says Brigid Fyr, managing director of e-commerce for Accenture Interactive. “A focus on omni-channel retailing enables retailers to create a more consistent consumer experience across online, mobile and in-store channels and ultimately increase their brands’ relevance to their customers.”