Retailers have been on the omnichannel journey for some time now, but what has been achieved? As customer behavior continually changes, we as an industry are constantly evolving, and sometimes that means we forget to pause and look tactically at where our efforts are best applied.

My colleague Richard Kolodynski has shared his thoughts on Europe’s omnichannel evolution; I want to take a step back and look at global omnichannel maturity in 2016, and what current shopper attitudes tell us about the international retail experience.

First of all, I think it’s important to establish that while the retail industry may talk of digital’s influence on physical shopping, and the increasing influence of online channels, most people still want to shop at a store.

iVend Retail recently published a report – Europe and North America: a study in Omnichannel Contrasts – which featured original research of 2,000 consumers. Of those surveyed, 72% of European shoppers use bricks-and-mortar for the majority of their retail needs, along with 57% of consumers in North America.

What this tells us is that retailers should be investing in their stores, as that’s the part of the business driving sales. Ecommerce cannot be ignored – it’s a fast growing opportunity, and it attracts a segment of shoppers that won’t visit their stores – but logistical challenges such as multi-channel stock management and fulfilment costs make online orders less profitable.

This brings me onto another important point about omnichannel in 2016. If the store is still attracting strong traffic in an increasingly digital environment, retailers need to be putting more weight behind services like click-and-collect, which enable a ‘best of both worlds’ service; the convenience of online shopping with the personal touch of bricks-and-mortar.

Our research found a huge variation in the maturity of click-and-collect services globally. 79% of UK shoppers and 60% of US consumers have used the service, compared to 45% in Italy and just 29% in Germany.

Naturally, the success of cross-channel fulfilment depends on the logistics of supplying across an individual country, and whether the retailer’s infrastructure can accommodate these services. However, this is a huge opportunity to not only cement the store’s role in an omnichannel model, but to encourage incremental spending among customers arriving to collect their orders.

Click-and-collect leads me into another area of omnichannel that I’d like to discuss: customer experience. In 2016, the store serves multiple purposes – sales point, showroom and fulfilment center. Each shopper that walks through the door will expect their needs to be attended to, regardless of how complex a process it involves from the sales associate’s perspective.

Personalization of experiences is the next great challenge in omnichannel maturity. Our research found that online is the channel most successfully providing customization at present, with a quarter of consumers wishing the store could do more to make their individuality felt.

So with these things in mind, where should retailers be focusing their omnichannel efforts in 2016? This is something that iVend Retail will be discussing in an exclusive webinar with the British Retail Consortium very soon, but for now I will leave you with my top line thoughts:

  • The store is still driving most profit, so it needs to be at the heart of retailers’ omnichannel strategies
  • More needs to be done to facilitate movement between channels; whether that’s encouraging online shoppers in-store, or embracing store browsers shopping online
  • The multi-purpose functionality of each retail channel must be understood, so that it can be optimized to give shoppers the experience they crave
  • Finally, retailers need the data insights and the technological flexibility to personalize the customer experience, however and wherever they choose to interact

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