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retailersWhat's your definition of "Omni-Channel"? However you define the term it's a fair bet that your definition as a retailer or even as a supplier is very different from how consumers define it. That doesn't mean that consumers don't understand and want what they define. In fact, consumers seem to be more savvy about what they want from their retailers without regard to any kind of terminology. In short, consumers want to be able to do business with their retailers using whatever presences those retailers have. And by the way - their retailers should have many different presences if they intend to remain a favored status with their consumers.

A survey commissioned by Accenture through Forrester titled "Consumer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap" includes an eye-opening look at expectations and where they are not being met. Here's an introductory paragraph from the report:

"Consumers have heightened shopping expectations in the era of omni-channel; 71% expect to view in-store inventory online, while 50% expect to buy online and pick up in-store. However, only a third of retailers have operationalized even the basics such as store pickup, cross-channel inventory visibility, and store based fulfillment." 

It would seem from just this introduction that consumers are far ahead of the companies they want to buy from. The fact that 71% of consumers surveyed not only know there is such a thing as viewing instore inventory online is telling. But that only a third of retailers have taken their customers' desires to heart is the shocking part. The report says that the "omni-channel customer experience is now a brand differentiator." So that third of retailers that do have their omnichannel acts together are winning the minds and the business of their customers, who by the way, are becoming ever more enamored with their highly enabled retailers.

Another point the study makes is that even the third of retailers that are omni-enabled may be thinking they have reached a state of completion. This false perception is likely to leave them vulnerable to retailers who start later but enable their operations faster. This is because the expectations of consumers grow. 

Overall the report brings up some interesting insights that should be taken to heart and put into action by retailers and other participants in the supply chain. The take away I got from the report is that innovation is and will be the key to moving past the competition. Last modified on Friday, 13 June 2014
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