Editor’s Note: Are Your Customers Getting the Best Possible Cross-Channel Experience?
Creating a seamless cross-channel experience is likely your goal. But your customers may not be experiencing that, at least according to a March study from Forrester Research: US Online Retail Forecast, 2009 To 2014.
While the report said mostly positive things about the state of the U.S. online retail market — specifically that it grew 11 percent in 2009 to reach $155.2 billion and is forecasted to reach $248.7 billion by 2014 — it has some bad news about retailers and how their cross-channel experiences translate to consumers.
"Despite more shoppers incorporating the online channel in their path to purchase, multichannel shopping experiences often leave much to be desired," the report said. "While 82 percent of online consumers are satisfied with buying experiences that begin and end in a store, satisfaction drops to 61 percent for consumers who begin their research online and purchase in a store."
What are some of the disconnects across channels that disappoint customers? Check out this scenario, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst of Forrester and co-author of the report: A consumer starts researching a digital camera on a retailer's website, assuming the product will be in stores. But when the consumer gets to the store, the product may not be available, or it may be sold at a more expensive price, or it may only be available at a different location than the one the consumer visited. Store associates may even contradict information the consumer found online.
"Usually those are the sources of frustration for customers," Mulpuru said. "Lack of consistency across channels, and the fact that the website didn't forewarn customers that prices could be different or that inventory may be web-only, etc."
How can cross-channel retailers rectify these disconnects? "The best way to make sure customers aren't disappointed is to try to provide more inventory visibility across channels," Mulpuru said, citing J.C. Penney's "Know Before You Go" initiative, which launched on jcp.com in 2007. The feature, aimed at shoppers who research online before visiting stores, offered merchandise availability at local stores and the ability to view weekly sales circulars online.