Retailers Struggling To Close Digital Divide

While retailers everywhere know shoppers want to be able to buy whatever they want, whenever they want, on which ever device they please, most are still struggling to provide anything close to true omnichannel options.

In fact, 94% of retailers polled recently by Accenture say they still face significant barriers to creating digitally seamless options. The study also surveyed consumers about their digital expectations of retailers, and found that the gap between what people want and what retailers offer is much wider than many might have expected.  A key problem is that 71% of consumers expect to be able to view in-store inventory online. And it’s important to them, with 39% saying they are unlikely to shop at stores that can’t help them avoid such basic “what do you mean you don’t have it in my size?” inventory snags. But only 36% of stores have operationalized even these very basic functions.



The extent of these disconnects between stores and shoppers are somewhat surprising, says Brigid Fyr, managing director of eCommerce for Accenture Interactive. For example, while consumers expect sales associates to be armed with the same mobile technology they use themselves, stores are reluctant to allow employees have phones on the selling floor. “They are worried that customers might get the perception that the associates aren’t working if they’re standing around with phones,” she tells Marketing Daily.

For retailers, one major stumbling block is based on organization problems rather than tech issues. Although 46% of decision makers say they already have a dedicated omnichannel team, for example, conflicting priorities are a problem. And they have a rough time sharing customer data and analytics between channels, countries and locations.

One trend that Fyr says she expects to see continue “is the growing recognition that omnichannel shopping is not a linear process, and the best thing you can do is create that seamless experience, so that whether you are shopping on mobile, online, or through a social network, consumers are having the same experience.”

Another trend growing in importance is consumers’ changing expectations about delivery and speed, with 50% of shoppers expecting to be able to buy something online and pick it up in-store. Many retailers are experimenting with variations, including drive-through pick-ups. 

“Basic questions are still important,” she says. “Shoppers complain about whether there is enough parking, or how long they have to wait in line, no matter what segment they are in. So issues like 'Do they have to get out of their car? Is it easy to find the pickup site inside the store, so they can get and out quickly? Or is it set up to browse, in a way they’ll enjoy?’ are all critical.”

The main goal, she says, is for retailers to find ways to “simply create a great experience, in every channel.”

Accenture conducted the research with Hybris software, a commerce platform provider, and Forrester Consulting. It’s based on responses from 1,500 multichannel shoppers, as well as 256 execs from retail and manufacturing organizations in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany.

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