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Omnichannel out of reach for most retailers: study

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The long-standing aim of omnichannel retailing is simply phrased: to give customers a seamless experience across channels, whether they’re in the store, on the website or using their mobile device. But the difficulties of integrating technology means that aim is out of reach for many retailers, a new report suggests.

A research study, Customer desires vs. retailer capabilities: Minding the omnichannel commerce gap, out this week from Accenture and hybris software, finds that while omnichannel is a key priority for most retailers, the reality is that most (94%) traders still find significant barriers still stand in their way.

Omnichannel, the study found, is now expected by most shoppers. Some 71% of the more than 1,500 shoppers surveyed expect to see in-store inventory online while 50% expect to buy online and pick up in the store. But only 36% of the more than 256 retail decision makers involved in the study found their companies could provide customers with that.

“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, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice. “Additionally, the 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.

”Increasing adoption of ecommerce and mobile technology by consumers underscores how important it is for retailers to introduce digital commerce into every aspect of their business to keep up with – and hopefully, outpace – their competitors.”

According to the survey, 40% of retailers reported difficulty integrating back-office technology across all of their channels. The survey highlights a key area for improvement, which is the ability to have a consolidated, accurate view of real-time inventory across stores and distribution centres.

“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.”

Photo: Omnichannel operations: Argos shoppers browse the range through instore screens in digitally-enabled stores.

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