Jonathan Wright outlines some of the key learnings from new research conducted by Ampersand
Compiled by one of our Knowledge Partners, Ampersand’s annual Multichannel Retail Report offers fascinating insights into the UK industry. Starting from the premise of assessing companies “based on the core tenets of multichannel retailing”, it looks in detail at 187 UK Top500 retailers.Each of these retailers is assigned a category – fashion, department [store], luxury – and so on, which enables the quick comparison of different sectors. Here, we summarise some of the key findings.
Overall, just 9% of the retailers assessed offered same-day click and collect, while 11% offered next-day click and collect. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical: 32% of the retailers assessed don’t offer click and collect at all. That leaves 46% of retailers offering click and collect, but where consumers have to wait for more than a day before they can pick up goods. What really surprised us, though, was to discover that 15% of the retailers assessed charge for click and collect, a service that’s in key respects akin to ordering an item that’s out of stock.
The research reveals that some sectors are doing better than others here. Of the 17 retailers classed as department stores, 88% offer click and collect, including 6% that offer same-day click and collect. To benchmark those figures against another sector, just 71% of fashion retailers offer click and collect, with 3% offering same-day click and collect. While this isn’t covered by the research, we would guess this difference in performance could be explained by department stores operating at scale, having larger stores, but in fewer locations, making it easier to focus resources.
Turning to fulfilment services more generally, 81% of retailers now offer next-day home delivery, with 24% offering Sunday delivery and 8% offering evening delivery. While there’s always room for improvement, these are impressive figures, especially as, we would argue, the bells-and-whistles features of multichannel retail are a distraction for retailers that cannot offer the basic service levels consumers increasingly demand.
The report considers a persistent cart – a feature that enables logged-in customers to add an item on one device and then to access it on another device later – to be a key indicator of multichannel sophistication. After all, according to Bronto’s 2016 consumer survey, UK consumers use an average of 1.6 devices when purchasing online. Despite this, 22% of retailers don’t offer this feature. That’s down from 31% in 2015 but still a change, says the report, that’s “rather insignificant considering the importance of the technology”.
Elsewhere, there are other instances where what should be basic digital offerings are lacking. Glaringly, two of the 187 companies assessed don’t even have mobile-optimised websites. Just 1% of retailers achieved a Google PageSpeed Insights Score of 82-100, suggesting significant room for improvement.
If the point of multichannel retail is to remove friction points, how well are retailers doing?
One figure above all, in our opinion, suggests plenty of room for improvement. Just 27% of retailers offer a store check stock facility. This means that customers of 73% of the 187 retailers can’t check whether a specific item is available at a shop on a local high street.
One of the big advantages multichannel retailers have is simply that customers don’t have to wait for goods, but can go to pick them up, so this is a big oversight. Upping the ante, many Prime members – in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Greater London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol and other urban areas – now get free same-day deliveries from Amazon.
Ampersand also offered a rundown of the best-performing retailers. As you might expect, there are definite overlaps with the IRUK Top500. The 10 best-performing retailers in the Ampersand list – and it’s worth noting that supermarkets were excluded because “including grocery retailers was skewing the data” – are:
|Retailer||Score (out of 100)|
|House of Fraser||90|
Just as interesting is a list of retailers that show how incremental improvements can lead to big boosts in performance. F Hinds, for example, achieved a 109% uplift in its overall rating through comparatively straightforward initiatives: introducing a mobile-optimised website and geolocation services. Similarly, Dior achieved a 106% improvement in its rating by introducing a mobile-optimised website. Significantly, it also amended its returns policy to make it more transparent, which is significant with luxury brands where consumers are making sizeable investments in statement pieces.
The overall message? While it’s outside the scope of Ampersand’s research, we would suggest it shows how multichannel retail isn’t at core about the nice-to-have features, but about getting basics right. Are fulfilment options comparable with and better than competitors (including pureplays) and do they work? Is the mobile site optimised? Have retailers thought carefully about how channels can be made to work together in ways that suit their customers? These are the kinds of questions retailers should be asking.