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Retailers Lag Behind Consumers’ Omnichannel Desires

Turning aspirations into reality

“Omnichannel” has become a buzzword in retail for good reason. New technologies and better data bring the longtime dream of a unified cross-channel shopping experience within reach. In practice, however, most retailers still fall far short of achieving this vision, according to a new eMarketer report, “The State of Omnichannel Retail: Retailers Playing Catch-Up with Consumers.”

Nearly all retailers aspire to creating an omnichannel experience for their customers. In a June 2013 survey conducted by Retail Systems Research (RSR), 84% of retailers worldwide said that creating a consistent customer experience across channels was very important, and the remaining 16% described it as somewhat important. In fact, a clear majority of retailers found most aspects of an omnichannel strategy very important.

Yet when it comes to implementing this vision, few retailers are accomplishing it. In the same survey, RSR asked retailers the extent to which they had synchronized their channels across different areas of omnichannel strategy. In all 13 areas, less than one in five respondents reported full synchronization. In no area did more than half report full synchronization or full synchronization in progress. Perhaps most notably, only a third of companies had or said they would soon have a fully synchronized customer experience across all channels.

At its core, omnichannel is about bridging online and offline experiences. In an April 2013 survey of ecommerce and digital professionals worldwide, IBM Tealeaf and Econsultancy found retailers lagging in this area. Some 63% of respondents said they provided online content about their offline stores, including locations, store hours and contacts, but far fewer had more advanced ways of linking mobile directly with the in-store shopping experience. Slightly more than a quarter said they were using QR codes and mobile coupons, but fewer were using other techniques.

What has kept retailers from plunging into omnichannel more quickly? A lack of urgency is partially to blame. In-store sales still dominate overall retail sales, which may lull some into putting off omnichannel implementation efforts. Compounding this, implementation requires a series of difficult steps, including inventory, data integration and revamped business operations. Without a sense of urgency and adequate customer intelligence to guide them, many retailers may hesitate in their commitment to make the changes necessary to offer an omnichannel experience.


The full report, “The State of Omnichannel Retail: Retailers Playing Catch-Up with Consumers,” also answers these key questions:

  • How close are retailers to providing an omnichannel experience?
  • What are some factors inhibiting omnichannel adoption?
  • How are consumers using media to shop across channels?
  • What are some omnichannel innovations gaining traction?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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