Omnichannel seen as critical to future of high-street retail

Without an omnichannel approach that seamlessly merges physical and digital shopping, high-street retailers are losing in-store opportunities to satisfy the expectations of their customers.

Retailers sell directly to members of the public, unlike wholesalers, which are companies that sell to other businesses.

This was the conclusion that barcode scanning startup Scandit drew from their recent survey of more than 1,500 consumers in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

omnichannel shopper
Bricks and mortar retailers who have not mastered omnichannel fail to “digitally engage” their customers thereby running the risk that they will make their purchases elsewhere. Image: pixabay 925470

Shoppers are increasingly using more than one channel to look for products to satisfy their needs and desires. In so doing, they are creating unique, individual pathways between browsing and buying.

Shoppers using several channels

Evidence of this can be found in a recent study of top non-grocery, global retailers that found that more than a quarter of purchases from their stores were made in a different channel from the one that the journey started in.

That study, from ForeSee, a company that measures and analyzes omnichannel customer experience, also found that 41 percent of shoppers are using two or more channels for their purchasing journey and that 57 percent of shoppers are using a mobile device while they are browsing in a physical store.

Nevertheless, it appears that many shoppers remain fondly attached to bricks and mortar stores. Scandit say that their survey found that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of shoppers harbour positive or very positive feelings toward traditional physical store retailers.

However, they suggest that bricks and mortar retailers are missing opportunities to capitalize on this goodwill as their failure to “digitally engage” their customers could mean that they drift away and make their purchases elsewhere.

Such opportunities could be met, for example, by having shopping apps that offer up to date information that shoppers can access on their mobile device while they are in the store.

The omnichannel shopper

For example, say I want to buy a new pair of running shoes. I go in a store and they have the shoes I want, and the fit is good, but they don’t have the colour I want.

This is the point at which the store could be about to lose my custom. In the pre-digital era, if they had good customer relations, they would offer me the chance to order a pair in my colour and have them delivered to my home or for pick up at the store.

But today I have more options. I can take out my smartphone and see not only if online retailers like Amazon have the same shoe in my size and colour ready for next day delivery, but that there is another store nearby that has the shoe in my size and colour in stock. Clearly, that store has sorted out its omnichannel strategy.

Lost opportunities

The purpose of the Scandit survey was to find out how shoppers feel about physical retailers and benchmark the numerous mobile shopping apps that include barcode scanning to help you find products and compare prices and availability across stores.

Other results from the survey show that many retailers are not taking up the omnichannel challenge and thus failing to meet the expectations of their customers.

For example, more than half (58 percent) of shoppers surveyed said that sometimes (and some said often) they would buy item on a mobile device after looking at it in a physical store.

The survey also found that 41 percent of shoppers said that if they could not find the product they wanted in the store then they would either buy it online or from a competitor’s physical store.

Scandit say that the survey results support the findings of a report from VDC Research that concludes “omnichannel enablement of the physical store is crucial to meeting customer expectations regarding instant gratification and a consistent shopping experience.”

Omnichannel shoppers spend more

It would appear, however, that there is still a way to go before the retail industry fully seizes the omnichannel challenge. Another recent report on the state of omnichannel finds that while 90 percent of retailers and brands say that they have an omnichannel strategy or are about to invest in one, only 8 percent “believe they have mastered omnichannel.”

Where retailers have successfully implemented omnichannel they have seen rich rewards. Andrew Quartermaine, vice president, SaaS customer management at ACI Worldwide, says that implementing omnichannel can deliver a range of benefits such as “increased sales, improved customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as an increased competitive advantage.”

He gives the example of John Lewis, who found that “omnichannel shoppers spend, on average, three times more than single-channel shoppers.” The leading U.K. retailer also found that “over 60 percent of their customers browsed online before making a purchase in store.”