Technology integration issues cited as a barrier to implementing digital capabilities that enable seamless retailing across in-store, online and mobile channels
Organizational, operational and technology challenges are hampering retailers’ efforts to meet customers’ demand for a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touch points, according to a new research study from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and hybris software, an SAP company and the world’s fastest-growing commerce platform provider.
Retailers view omni-channel maturity as a key brand differentiator for their companies, and improving their ability to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels, as a top priority, according to the study, “Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap”, conducted by Forrester Consulting. However, the study shows that nearly all – 94 percent – of retail decision makers surveyed as part of the research said that their companies face significant barriers to becoming an integrated omni-channel company.
The study is based on an online survey commissioned by Accenture and hybris, and conducted by Forrester Consulting with more than 1,500 multi-channel shoppers and 256 decision makers from retail and manufacturing organizations across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. To view the research infographic, please click here.
The survey also found that 71 percent of the shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50 percent expect to buy online and pick up their purchase in a physical store. Yet, only one third (36 percent) of the retail decision makers surveyed said that their companies are able to provide customers with in-store pickup of online purchases, online visibility of cross-channel inventory and store-based fulfilment of online orders. All of these capabilities are considered vital for seamless retailing.
“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,” concluded Donnelly.
Technology and integration barriers
According to the survey, 40 percent of retailers reported that they are having 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 centers.
“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.”
Organizational and operational challenges
Although 46 percent of decision makers surveyed said they already have a dedicated omni-channel team, – one that includes members of all functions, – conflicting priorities and organizational silos remain a key challenge. Two additional key barriers identified as preventing retailers from becoming an integrated omni-channel company are difficulty in sharing customer data and analytics between channels, countries or locations and a lack of in-store associate training.
Opportunities exist to make the physical store a strategic asset
According to the research, in-store pickup of purchases by consumers emerged as a key capability that brick-and-mortar retailers must be able to provide their customers if they expect to compete effectively against online-only retailers. Nearly half (47 percent) of the customers surveyed said they use in-store-pickup options to avoid online shipping costs, 25 percent so they can collect their orders on the day of purchase and 10 percent simply because they find it more convenient to pick items from a store than having them shipped to their home.
“Customers expect stores to be well integrated with all of a retailer’s digital capabilities, and to succeed, retailers must be able to serve customer needs regardless of how, when and where they shop,” said Brigid Fyr, managing director of eCommerce for Accenture Interactive. “A focus on omni-channel retailing enables retailers to create a more consistent consumer experience across online, mobile and in-store channels and ultimately increase their brands’ relevance to their customers.”
“The research indicates that many retailers are operating with a ‘false state of omni-channel comfort,’” said Walker. “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 so 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.”
For further information on this research, please join an upcoming webinar with Accenture, hybris, and featuring Forrester, on 25 March at 1030ET/1430UK/1530CET and register here.
To download a copy of the research report, please go to: http://hybris.com/downloads/white-paper/customer-desires-vs-retailer-capabilities/530.
About the Research
Accenture and hybris commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an online survey of 256 retail and manufacturing organizations in the US, UK, France, and Germany to evaluate retail omni-channel attitudes and capabilities. Survey participants included decision makers involved in digital commerce initiatives. Forrester also conducted interviews with eight decision makers involved in digital commerce initiatives at retail and manufacturing organizations. To complement this research, Forrester also conducted an online survey of 1,503 omni-channel shoppers who have made a purchase in a store or online in the past three months to evaluate consumer attitudes toward omni-channel retail capabilities. The study began in November 2013 and was completed in December 2013.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 281,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$28.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2013. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
Accenture is working with retailers across the world to help them provide a seamless shopping experience to their customers. Accenture Seamless Retail Services is a business service that helps retailers to execute price, promotions, assortment and inventory consistently and effectively across multiple channels to build customer loyalty and drive up sales. This end-to-end business service combines Accenture’s industry expertise with its management consulting, technology and business process outsourcing capabilities to deliver outcomes as a service.
To view the results of Accenture’s latest study of seamless retailing, click here.