Research indicates retailers failing to meet omnichannel expectations
February 10, 2016
To optimize omnichannel purchasing, eCommerce sites must implement the appropriate tools and technology.
In this highly digitized world, retail companies are faced with growing complications in meeting the rapidly expanding expectations of consumers. As shoppers become more connected and informed, they are looking for seamless purchasing experiences that translate consistently across all channels. The problem, however, is that with an increasing number of retailers turning their attention to eCommerce operations, research has shown that they may not be focusing on the right aspects. Or, at the very least, not implementing the necessary systems and tools to deliver effective and efficient service.
According to a recent study performed by Forrester Consulting, many retail companies are failing to adequately utilize digital technologies that will provide consumers today with the best possible omnichannel shopping experience. In the report, the authors highlighted several key problem areas hurting merchants.
The first issue is that there seems to be a serious disconnect between seller perceptions and buyer experiences. Retail companies aren't understanding or prioritizing what consumers value most. The Forrester research found that 79 percent of shoppers believe it is crucial to have consistent pricing between in-store and online, whereas only 52 percent of retailers agree. Conversely, companies emphasized unified shopping carts, even though consumers said they were among the least important.
Reverse logistics and return management
Another aspect where there exists a major discrepancy is present between customers and companies is omnichannel returns. The majority, or 80 percent, of shoppers said it is critical requirement for brands to allow buyers to make returns both online and in the store regardless of which channel the product was initially bought through. However, only 62 percent of retailers said this was a top priority.
Meeting the evolving demands of order management, fulfillment and distribution is a major obstacle for eCommerce companies today. A research report recently conducted by the Peerless Research Group, or PRG, revealed that meeting the needs of increasing customer service expectations, making deliveries on-time and order management complexities are some of companies' top operational challenges.
"When companies have multi-channel facilities to hold goods and fulfill orders, it can be complex to set up receiving, bulk storage, picking procedures, and forward pick areas as well as packing and shipping," the PRG report explained. "Coordinating concurrent processes for multiple channels can be done, but requires complex data collection, a warehouse management system or investment in other supply chain software, and support for wave and/or zone picking methods."
And only 34 percent of those surveyed felt their current distribution process was highly effective. To optimize performance, then, companies must leverage an eCommerce order management system with multiplatform inventory control capabilities. Working with a third-party provider that specializes in reverse logistics and returns management can help significantly reduce the burden of handling a complicated and rapidly growing network of channels.
Evolving role of retail employees
According to the Forrester report, a third problem area plaguing retail companies today is rising expectations for customer service and sales associates. In the research, the organization found that only 29 percent of consumers felt the sales representatives were helpful in their shopping experiences. It is important that businesses understand that, although many aspects of operations are becoming digitalized, the need for in-person assistance is still paramount.
"With a wealth of information at their own fingertips, shoppers expect sales associates to have the same information - and then some," the report said. "Retailers must be able to anticipate and meet shopper needs instantly, and equipping store associations with mobile devices enables more relevant, data-drive customer service."
It is not that these robotic technologies are meant to replace in-store employees but, rather, enhance their effectiveness.
Lack of tracking and visibility
Most, if not all, of these problems eCommerce leaders are struggling with today can be boiled down to a common problem: not having, or properly using, the appropriate digital technologies and tools. In order to thoroughly understand shoppers' behavior, retailers must have systems in place that allow for real-time and on-demand reporting and analytics. Furthermore, leveraging Web-based platforms that are managed by third-party consultants can provide merchants with the multisource and multichannel order management systems necessary to improve fulfillment operations and enhance inventory control.
As the retail market expands and consumer expectations continue to grow, it is imperative for eCommerce companies to gain a firm grasp on the latest innovations and technologies that will continuously optimize their performance.