Are Retail Executives Out of Omnichannel Touch?
General consensus claims that omnichannel retail is about connecting any channel a retailer operates and creating a seamless experience for the customer. In an ideal omnichannel environment, a consumer can research the item using one channel, purchase in another, and receive using yet another — all without difficulty. Just about all retail executives share this general definition of the new paradigm. However, their analyses of their own omnichannel capabilities are proving to be a bit overenthusiastic.
In April 2017, a study from Boston Retail Partners reported that 62 percent of retail executives claimed the ability to offer buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), a basic element of an effective omnichannel strategy. Yet late last year, we published a report analyzing the actual capabilities and services provided by more than 1,000 global retailers, 330 of which were in the U.S. We were surprised to find that fewer than one-third of U.S. and less than a quarter of Canadian retailers offer BOPIS services today.
Why the disconnect between what executives think they offer and what their websites prove to be true? A retailer’s website doesn't lie, but it also doesn't make assumptions about experiences and services that aren't obvious to the customer. Based on the generally agreed upon definition of "omnichannel retail" stated above, it should be obvious that whatever capabilities and services the customer is able to find are ultimately what the retailer offers in practice. If they can’t find the option, it might as well not exist … and it certainly isn’t seamless.
Discord Among Retail Executives
It's possible that retail executives have convinced themselves that their development efforts equate to authentic omnichannel retailing practices. It may even explain why these markets still lag so distantly behind the U.K. in acceptance and use of the practice, where 67 percent offer BOPIS (i.e., click and collect). If executive teams believe they're already engaging, then there's no driving force to push the organization to quickly deploy in-store pickup services.
Work in Progress
Equally possible is that many more retail executives see the work and efforts underway within their organizations to prepare for capabilities like in-store pickup offerings. Of course, this is no small task. When these initiatives become mired in discussions of replacing large swaths of existing systems and technologies, the result can gravitate toward a huge new ERP implementation, multiple seven-figure price tags, and take two or more years to deploy. Meanwhile, customers defect as they wonder why the competition offers services their favorite retailer does not.
Opportunities if You Already Have BOPIS
Retailers in these underperforming markets have a golden opportunity ahead of them. If you already have BOPIS deployed and working, then now is the time to market your offering intensely. It drives up customer loyalty (since your competitors are clearly not offering what customers want — today), in-store foot traffic, sales and, ultimately, profits. Double down on marketing your enhanced offering now, while three-quarters of your competitors are still trying to figure out which way is up.
Opportunities to Catch Up
For the retailers that are thinking about deploying omnichannel capabilities in earnest, the lesson is clear — get moving. You’re late, but not too late! You still have an amazing opportunity to leapfrog most of your competitors.
Focus your efforts on working with partners who offer best-in-class functionality for the systems that tie all your retail functions together, from order management to CRM. Doing so will help your associates adapt, integrate and adopt the technology that's going to help them bring in more sales.
More importantly, it will guarantee that your customers trust you to provide the convenience and service they expect, in any channel. Bridge the gap between executive perspective and true omnichannel retail, and you’ll be ready to compete in the customer-centric retail world.
Charles Dimov is the vice president of marketing at OrderDynamics, a SaaS order management systems provider.
Related story: Total Retail's 2018 Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers