Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Omnichannel-definitionIt seems we've been talking about omnichannel selling for a long time now. Maybe it's only been the last 5 years or so that the topic has risen to the level of certified buzzword, but for the majority of consumers who shop online, it's been a very long 5 years... and even at that, has yet to deliver on their expectations.

Forrester's study for Accenture and hybris looks at the gap between what retail customers want or expect from their shopping experiences, and what retailers are currently delivering. To say that they've identified a gap would be an understatement - and neither the customers nor the retailers can really be blamed.

Consumers don't see the disjointed technology behind the retailer, and they don't care that it exists. The retail consumer expects to find the same products in the store, in a printed catalog, and online. They see no line between the different delivery channels. A common expectation is that they can place an order online and pick the item up at the store. In fact, the report says that a full 50% of consumers expect this kind of capability from their retailers. And that follows from their other expectation held by a full 71% that they should be able to view all in-store inventory online. With these kinds of expectations it's no wonder customers are disappointed by their multichannel shopping expectations - even though the word 'multichannel' is nowhere to be found in their vocabulary.

What do retail shoppers want? Aside from price, they want FAST delivery. Our desire for instant gratification is well documented. And when all shopping was the in-store kind, retailers played on that by packing the checkout lines with impulse buys. So that we consumers were able to go to the store, pick up what we wanted and walk out with it - plus a few more goodies.

The Forrester study says that of all the delivery options available from online purchases, 75% of consumers prefer free "expedited" shipping with 2-3 day delivery. That even trumps next day shipping with only a minor upcharge. So it's interesting that we are willing to and expect to wait a couple days for our online deliveries.

Where's the win for retailers?
Clearly consumer expectations are that retailers carry the same mix of products in all their shopping channels. Assuming that this is practically impossible it would make sense to differentiate what is available for local store pickup versus shipping. And it would make sense that retailers would pursue immediate to short delivery as a priority. But the truth - at least according to the Forrester study - is that only 11% of surveyed retailers have "buy on-line and pick up at the store" scheduled as a first priority. Even more surprising is that fully 17% of those retailers have the function as a 5th priority. And we all know that rarely does anything actually get done that is not at the top of the priority list, meaning that practically speaking, 89% of retailers are ignoring the issue.

Of course, having an integrated catalog and near real-time inventory are key to delivering this kind of consumer focused push. So maybe the issue is not so much in setting the priority for this particular function, but in the complexity of populating a central catalog system that can manage and distribute information about all the products available through a given retailer. Let's start there.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 April 2014
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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