Most brands and retailers are deluding themselves into thinking they are effective at omnichannel retail because they operate across online, in-store and mobile channels. But if the consumer’s experience in each channel is independent of the others, then it is nothing more than just a multi-channel strategy.

Our recent Intelligence Report on omnichannel retailing reveals that very few brands operate a truly omnichannel strategy: offering consumers a fully integrated and seamless shopping experience across all three channels.

Of the 97 brands and retailers, only five US retailers demonstrate market-leading effectiveness in both e-commerce and digital enablement of in-store sales: Walgreens, Nordstrom, Target, Staples and Petsmart. In UK, only Argos made the grade.

Mono brand speciality retailers and luxury brands performed especially poorly, including H&M, Vans, Fossil, Chanel, Gucci and Prada. These brands appear to view their websites largely as standalone product brochures, neither facilitating online transactions nor pushing people into their stores. That’s a big fail, especially for luxury retailers who regard their stores as a brand experience palace.

Forward-thinking retailers have realised that persuading your customers to buy online and collect in-store eliminates delivery charges and boosts basket size (since customers often purchase more items when collecting their orders), both of which improve margins.

Here, Europe leads America. In the US only 12% of speciality retailers offer click & collect, whilst in UK, some 58% do. In France, over the last two years Carrefour, Casino, Intermarché and Système U have bolstered the number of drive-through collection points by 150% to 2,884 locations.

However, it is live visibility of in-store inventory that was the hot investment of 2016, with around 40% of US and UK retailers now offering this functionality through their websites. Department stores have been especially innovative here as a survival strategy in the face of a very challenging sales environment. During 2016, Marks & Spencer and Selfridge’s both launched visibility of in-store inventory through their websites to encourage customers to transition from site to store. 

But all of these strategies focus purely on the website and store -- a bi-channel strategy. With one third of all online transactions now taking place on mobile devices and smaller screens consuming two-thirds of our digital time, mobile is the secret ingredient for true omnichannel success.

Mobile’s contribution to an omnichannel experience should go beyond just the adaptive rendering of your website onto a smaller screen.

For example:

• Burberry leverages mobile for enhanced service: a geo-located store locator, click-to-call, a chat bot powered by Facebook Messenger and order tracking.

• IKEA uses the phone’s camera to provide an augmented reality view of furniture in your house.

• Sephora also uses the camera to superimpose your face inside a personalised video tutorial.

• Lowe’s helps guide you to exactly the right aisle in-store to find your product, and gives every store assistant a mobile device for immediate access to information that can help answer customers’ questions.

• Michael Kors inserts a live in-store inventory feed directly into their Google Maps listing.

• Starbucks’s app extends beyond loyalty to offer automatic ordering at your nearest location and in-store payments

• Walmart provides an in-store product locator and price comparison tool

• Amazon Go offers the promise of using your mobile phone to eliminate the store checkout completely

What’s common across all of these examples is that mobile is being used to add something extra above and beyond the website, and that the mobile experience is integrated seamlessly with the in-store and website paths to purchase.

Yet 76% of European retailers fail to integrate any in-store functionality into their mobile apps and even fewer empower their store assistants with mobile devices to better serve customers.

In a mobile-first world, that’s a big opportunity for innovative retailers to stand out by creating a truly omnichannel shopping experience that removes all barriers to purchase and delights customers with a seamless flow from beginning to end.


By Simon Birkenhead, European managing director at L2 Inc

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