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Retailers’ omnichannel shortcomings revealed again


Yet another study has documented retailers’ inability to keep pace with shoppers’ heightened expectations for a seamless experience driven by all manner of technological advancements.

Accenture surveyed 750 shoppers and not surprisingly found a number of gaps between consumer expectations related to product offerings and pricing and the ability of retailers to deliver what customers want as they shop across a growing number of channels, mobile in particular. Accenture observed, as many retailers already have, that in order to win consumer loyalty and achieve growth across all channels retailers must enhance their mobile commerce offerings and improve the in-store shopping experience.

Only 42% of shoppers found it easy to complete a purchase using a mobile device, and when asked which aspect of the shopping experience is most in need of an upgrade, 39% ranked the physical store first, showing that retailers have not made much progress in these categories since Accenture conducted a similar survey last year.

The research also found that a number of mobile capabilities that can enhance seamless retailing for customers remain underdeveloped. For example, while all of the U.S. retailers assessed as part of Accenture’s benchmarking analysis have mobile optimized websites, only 53% have optimized their websites for tablets. Survey respondents said they would like to access services via their mobile phones while shopping in-store.

More than a third (39%) said that they would take advantage of the opportunity to earn loyalty points and save money on their purchases through in-store mobile phone offers, and 45% would like to receive real-time promotions sent to their phones or tablet. Yet, only 28% of retailers currently have the capability to deliver that service. This gap between consumers’ desire for mobility services and the current levels of provision from retailers is further reinforced by the 32% of respondents who said the second biggest improvement retailers need to make in the consumer shopping experience is to enable the use of all three sales channels – physical store, online and mobile – in an integrated way.

“The fact that many consumers use their mobile devices to check inventory availability while on their way to a store and are looking for real-time promotions to be sent to their phones means retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on the power of these devices,” said Dave Richards, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail Practice. “By investing in mobile applications and frictionless digital payment tools that incorporate loyalty, coupons and rewards in-store, retailers can provide a seamless bridge between customers’ online and offline experiences. All sales channels must be equally desirable to the consumer, so that the path to purchase is not chosen based on satisfaction in one channel over another, but simply on what is most convenient at that time.”

The surveys also found growing consumer expectations for transparency and consistency in pricing. An overwhelming majority (82%) of survey respondents expect a retailer’s prices to be the same in-store and online, a significant increase from the 69% who held that view last year. However, Accenture’s benchmarking analysis of retailers indicated that only one-third (34%) had the same pricing in-store and online for more than 80% of the items assessed.

Other findings related to shipping and delivery show that free continues to trump fast – an interesting insight given all the activity around same day delivery. Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they would be willing to wait between four and seven days for free delivery while 29% were willing to wait more than eight days. At the other extreme, some shoppers are willing to pay a significant premium for speed. One fourth said they would be willing to pay $10 or more for same-day delivery for an item they need urgently, 13% would pay extra for next-day delivery and 22% would consider paying $20 or more for delivery within two hours.

As for fulfillment of online orders, more than half the survey respondents (55%) think that scheduling a delivery from retailers is important and 20% have increased the use of the pickup in-store option this year. “Our findings highlight a clear gap between the cohesion consumers expect from their shopping experience and what they seem to be getting. This suggests it is time for retailers to rethink their investment approach as they look to drive sales,” said Richards.

“It is critical for retailers to build the capabilities such as digital marketing and analytics that will enable them to tap into the core strengths of the physical store and seamlessly integrate with the rest of their digital offerings. The winners will be those most successful at transitioning their online visitors into in-store purchasers and vice versa.”

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