The pandemic was the most dynamic industry shift we’ve seen to-date, across every dimension of retail. It forced many brands to roll out innovation that would normally take years of planning and production in a matter of months. This was not only a response to evolving customer needs but also a requirement for survival.
Now, with well over a year of the pandemic behind us, retail is once again at a junction point. There’s no question that brands need to continue to prioritize omnichannel transformation. Services that drive digital engagement and bolster convenience, such as self-checkout and click-and-collect, are what shoppers expect from their favorite brands.
However, the solutions that will shape retail’s future aren’t accelerating at the same pace as they did a year ago. This is a key finding in the 2022 Omnichannel Leadership Report, an annual assessment of the industry’s omnichannel competence by NewStore. It includes U.S. data on 250 luxury, premium, and lifestyle brands, many of which are included in the 2021 RetailX Europe Top1000.
While the industry at large needs to go all-in on omnichannel, there are many retail brands already getting it right. They show excellence in delivering solutions that make it easy for consumers to shop across digital, physical, and mobile. And, as importantly, excellence in delivering the solutions associates need to make these very journeys possible.
Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton Rank in Top 5
Two EU Top350 brands, Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton, were identified as omnichannel leaders in the report, in addition to DWS, Bergdorf Goodman, and Fabletics. Both have earned an omni leadership position in at least two of the last three years.
Nordstrom, for one, has been committed to customer experience for its entire 120 years of business. Today, this means integrating every selling channel, and underpinning each offering with data around customers and inventory. It has also edited its store fleet in recent years to include a new brick-and-mortar concept that is a service hub. What really sets Nordstrom apart is its ability to test and evolve to meet the customer wherever and however she wants to shop.
Louis Vuitton is similar in that it wants every brand interaction to serve the customer. Another leading reason why the brand is so successful at omnichannel is because of the ways in which it seamlessly integrates sales associates into the buying journey. They aren’t your average retail employees—they are ambassadors and style influencers too, who drive meaningful growth for the brand. It’s one of Louis Vuitton’s many strategies to embed digital into the entire company.
Delivering on Omnichannel Convenience
Convenience has been king for many years now. However, at the height of the pandemic and into this year, brands really doubled down on services that make it easy for their customers to buy anywhere, pick up from anywhere, and return to anywhere. In the Omnichannel Leadership Report, we’ve seen year-over-year increases in the number of brands offering these cornerstone conveniences.
For example, 53% of the brands we audited offer click-and-collect, up from 40% in 2021. Having this option, as well as similar options such as curbside pickup and reserve in-store, are what set apart leaders like Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton. In addition, they also are able to facilitate endless aisle orders. This is something that 66% of U.S. consumers expect from store associates, but 43% of brands don’t yet have the capability in place. Today’s omnichannel leaders aren’t burdened by out-of-stocks or holding less inventory; they have a seamless way to access and sell inventory from anywhere in their network.
Enabling Store Associates to Drive Omnichannel
The last two years have dramatically changed what it means to be a sales associate. There is so much more to the job than selling, which is a direct result of all the new solutions available to consumers today. Those that are leading in omnichannel are enabling their store associates to do these new tasks in both easy and efficient ways. In most cases, this means introducing mobile devices into their high street stores.
While 48% of associates in the report have a mobile device available, they are not being used in ways that benefit both shoppers and associates. In fact, only 19% of brands offer mobile checkout, which can reduce queues for shoppers and increase the number of transactions per associate. Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, plus other leaders, are ushering in a new kind of omnichannel associate that can engage with and sell to customers anywhere. This is a key competitive advantage as by investing in associates, brands are investing in their customer experiences.
The Omnichannel Opportunity in 2022
Despite a plethora of challenges from the pandemic, including some we’re still facing today, the retail industry is ripe with opportunity. However, that’s assuming digital transformation and omnichannel are strategic initiatives. We’ve seen this to be the case for many of the largest brands in the U.S. and Europe, and know it to be the way forward. Learn from those that are omnichannel leaders.
For more insights on the state of omnichannel retail and how we define leaders, download the 2022 Omnichannel Leadership Report: newstore.com/olr2022.