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EDITORS' COMMENT - March 2014

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Few if any retailers can as yet call themselves omnichannel.

That’s a state to which retailers, even those well versed in linking sales channels, are still working towards. It’s a tough job. While multichannel retail is about forging links between different but still separate sales channels omnichannel goes beyond channels to offer customers a seamless service with a consistent experience – across whichever touchpoint customers use. Such a change may simply see retailers catch up with the wa customers already think about retailers and brands.



As Gary Winter, sales director at Hermes, told us as we researched the logistic feature, "We need to be fluid in our response to consumer behaviour. I don’t think a consumer sees a difference between a high street retailer’s store, a catalogue from that company that came in the mail and the website. They see it as a single experience.”



There’s a way to go before that perception is met in practice. Even those retailers that are well advanced on the journey towards omnichannel haven’t yet got there, as senior executives at these companies will freely admit. But change it happening fast and companies can’t afford to be left behind, as these same executives are also keenly aware.



We aim to help, and throughout this special report we ask big questions about how, and why, retailers are transforming themselves into organisations capable of giving customers the omnichannel experience these same customers demand. What do consistent customer experiences look like? How can retailers best achieve them? What systems lie beneath? We talk to retailers, industry experts and suppliers as we look to find out what the leaders are doing, and how to apply the lessons that they’ve learned to other businesses.



As always we do that through the prism of six features: interface and design, merchandising, customer experience, logistics, strategy, and IT and systems.



In our interface and design section (page 8), special report co-editor Jonathan Wright considers how retailers are adapting to the complexities of designing for omnichannel in a fastchanging retail landscape. He unearths some best practices and new approaches that are starting to emerge from this revolution in the way we shop.



Our merchandising section (page 12) takes a look how traders are doing in their quest to understand customers and give them the individual experiences that each desires. Writer Christian Annesley reports on how, in 2014 merchandising is taking more account of location than ever before.



In our customer experience section (page 16), we discuss how retailers can balance the need constantly to focus in on customer service with the demands of moving towards truly onmichannel retail.



In our logistics section (page 20), special report co-editor Chloe Rigby considers pragmatic retail approaches to joined up deliveries that ensure companies can give customers what they want – while ensuring this is done in a sustainable way that doesn’t leave companies out of pocket.



Our strategy section (page 24) assesses how traditional retail boards can best manage the kind of change that omnichannel implies. Who sets the direction? How are staff educated and incentivised as they work through a time in which many assumptions  about retail are being challenged and even overturned?



Finally, in our IT and systems section (page 28), writer and retail expert Penelope Ody assesses how technology can keep up with channel-hopping shoppers when it’s starting from an on-the-ground reality that may include legacy systems alongside newer and more specialist software. How should retailers be directing new investment in the light of their in-house IT skills, and what are the priorities for them to consider?



This second annual review of

developments in omnichannel has

been fascinating to compile.

We hope you find this special report both useful

and interesting. If you have comments,

questions or suggestions for future special

reports, please contact us.

We can be reached at:

[email protected] and

[email protected]

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