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Omni-Channel Commerce Challenges in Focus

Posted on 3.23.2014

Consumers expect a seamless experience across channels when it comes to their shopping experiences, and retailers are feeling the pressure.

The “Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap” study, which was commissioned by Accenture and hybris and conducted by Forrester Consulting, reveals that 94 percent of the surveyed retail decision makers claim that their companies face significant barriers when it comes to omni-channel commerce. The study, for example, found that 71 percent of shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, while 50 percent expect the ability to make a purchase online and pick up the items in a physical store. Comparatively, only 36 percent of the survey respondents said their companies are able to provide customers with in-store pickup for online purchases and online visibility of cross-channel inventory.

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“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 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.”

According to the study, in-store pickup is a capability that brick-and-mortar retailers should provide in order to better compete against online-only retailers on the Web. In fact, 47 percent of the surveyed customers admit to using in-store pickup to avoid online shipping costs, while 25 percent leverage the feature so they can pick up items the day they purchase them and 10 percent simply find in-store pickup more convenient than having items shipped to their home.

It is important to note that the study also shed light on other omni-channel challenges, revealing that 40 percent of retailers have a difficult time integrating back-office technology across channels. Moreover, 46 percent of the respondents claim that they already have dedicated omni-channel teams, yet conflicting priorities and organizational silos remain a challenge. Additional omni-channel challenges retailers cited include difficulty sharing customer data and analytics between channels, as well as a lack of in-store associate training.

“The research indicates that many retailers are operating with a ‘false state of omni-channel comfort,’” said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at hybris. “The reality is that the customer is way ahead of many retailers in defining what competitive shopping patterns are, not only across channels, but within each channel. If retailers are unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, these competitive threats then their business will go to other retailers agile enough to plug these gaps, and provide the omni-channel sales experience customers are demanding. Retailers that fail to understand the significance of this gap in service and sales delivery are leaving themselves exposed to a significant competitive disadvantage.”

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