Retail Systems Research (RSR) has since 2007 been studying the challenges and opportunities for retailers arising from the ongoing shift towards harmonisation of selling channels. Their latest report shows that retailers are now aware that offering a compelling, seamless customer experience will increase their sales and profits.

Retailing: Omni-Channel Approach Central to Strategies in 2013

The option of going cross-channel has had a clear impact on the world of retail, reveals the 2013 benchmarking study by the Retail Systems Research (RSR) institute, which has for a number of years been tracking the progress of the retail sector and examining both the potential and the risks involved in incorporating cross-channel strategies. The RSR report, Omni-Channel 2013: The Long Road To Adoption, shows that in 2013, retailers are making much more use of multi-channel sales tactics than at the time of the 2012 report, with particularly strong growth in mobile offerings. RSR points in particular to a substantial change in attitude on the part of retailers, with 25% of those responding to the survey now saying they aim to provide consumers with “everything you need to know” to make the best possible purchasing decision, versus just 14% of respondents in 2012.

Blending the physical and digital worlds

RSR points to an “undeniable” consumer trend towards “more complex paths-to-purchase”, which mix the online and physical purchasing experience. Retailers are now aware that their greatest challenge lies in the way the physical and digital worlds are blended into a single experience. Thus 66% of the retailers quizzed stated that “allowing the customer to purchase a product, take delivery, and return it through the channel of their choice” represents the main opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. Some 45% cited improving “operational execution across all channels”, while 40% underlined the opportunity to “create a single brand identity across all channels”. At the moment, retailers favour mobile-optimised web access to their e-commerce capabilities over mobile apps and are hoping that the value of mobile can be realised without having to manage all the complexities of a mobile application environment, thanks to recent improvements in HTML5, particularly those relating to geo-location based applications, RSR points out.

Implementing a single interactive platform

In order to rise to the challenge of creating an omni-channel experience for the consumer, RSR advises retailers to focus on the customer experience in all sales environments and then decide the role that digital will play within this total experience. Retailers also need to capture and analyse the way customers use physical and digital environments to help them make purchasing decisions. In fact, creating a consistent customer experience across all channels is the most valuable capability for retailers, says the research body. However, 54% of respondents indicate that their biggest inhibitor is that they do not have a single view of the customer across channels. It is therefore a must to develop a single platform for interacting with customers if retailers are to build an effective cross-channel strategy.  Finally, it is now time for retailers to start thinking about the implications of omni-channel selling on the purchasing and procurement side of the business, suggests RSR.

By Pauline Trassard