The Cross-Channel Conundrum: Challenges and Opportunities in the Evolving E-Commerce Industry
Retailers still aren’t prepared for omnichannel — and they’re losing out on millions in revenue as a result. In fact, 45 percent of merchants and suppliers have lost more than $1 million in revenue due to challenges faced when integrating cross-channel capabilities into their commerce strategy, according to 1WorldSync’s recently released study, Charting Course for Global Commerce.
To better understand how merchants and suppliers stack up in today’s multichannel sales environment, 1WorldSync surveyed 400 merchants (retailers, distributors and wholesalers) and suppliers (brands and manufacturers) on their current challenges and opportunities for growth. Key findings illustrate retailers are struggling to facilitate a seamless cross-channel commerce experience, due in part to misaligned investment priorities and difficulty streamlining product information across systems, trading partners and channels.
These findings come at a stark contrast to consumer expectations. Shoppers want retailers to provide seamless commerce experiences, which means retailers need to be prepared to offer accurate and robust information across all channels: in-store, online, on mobile devices or from third-party sources.
As consumers continue to expect more and commerce continues to transcend borders, the inability to master omnichannel becomes an even bigger problem for retailers, leading ultimately to a lack of sales and long-term customer loyalty. Here are a few lessons retailers can learn to improve their cross-channel readiness:
Get Behind Popular Sales Channels
It’s more important than ever to be able to maintain a consistent presence across a range of channels, especially those that consumers use often and interchangeably. Customers expect the ability to interact with brands on e-commerce sites, social media platforms and smartphones, in addition to in-store.
However, many retailers can’t keep up across the channels they should be dominating by now, which leaves consumers frustrated. The study found that 39 percent of merchant respondents don’t support mobile commerce, and 77 percent haven’t integrated product information management across web, mobile, app and in-store channels. Additionally, 44 percent don’t have the technology in place to sell via third-party marketplaces like Amazon.com.
To overcome this, retailers need the necessary technology to support e-commerce — especially as consumer demand for consistent experiences increases down the line. This means investing in cloud-based technology that centralizes data, focusing on cross-channel logistics software to simplify data exchange, and deploying a product information system that can automatically comply with new and changing industry regulations.
Develop an Omnichannel Mind-Set
By investing in technology that enables more efficient and effective sales across channels, retailers have the opportunity to dramatically increase their revenue. Of the organizations surveyed that have lost more than $1 million due to omnichannel commerce challenges, less than half plan to invest more than 25 percent of their digital budget on omnichannel capabilities in 2017. That might be because leaders still underestimate the value of these capabilities. Furthermore, the importance of omnichannel isn't instilled in the mind-set of many organizations. Over half of respondents reported an internal knowledge gap when it comes to understanding the value of omnichannel. Companies need a holistic view of sales performance across every channel, and a common understanding of how each channel can work together to maximize revenue. Every employee — from entry level to CMO — should share the same vision. Shifting the mind-set around the effectiveness of omnichannel investments can help drive organizational buy-in.
Engage With a Third-Party Content Provider
Product content is a crucial cornerstone in today’s retail environment, and brands need to maintain its consistency across all channels to ensure a seamless experience for the customer. However, most brands find it costly and inefficient to maintain these databases internally. Third-party content providers eliminate the need for manual processes, saving time and increasing speed and efficiency of product information management across channels.
The 1WorldSync report found that 80 percent of market leaders (i.e., companies that complete more than 51 percent of their sales online) currently use a third-party content provider to manage product information across channels. Third-party content providers are undoubtedly a contributor to their success, allowing them to improve the customer experience through consistent product information across channels, increasing online and offline sales as a result.
The rewards of mastering omnichannel? Long-term growth, business health and stability, and an expanding base of customers along every channel.
Dan Wilkinson is the chief commercial officer of 1WorldSync, a multi-enterprise, global product information network..