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The Omnichannel Challenge

Retailers are struggling to keep apace with their customers’ breakneck adoption of technology. According to a new study issued by Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN), stores are considerably less nimble than their patrons, modernizing their sales techniques far slower than consumers are updating their buying habits.

The New Jersey based research firm conducted a study of more than sixty retailers, 41 percent of which specialized in apparel. The results indicated that consumers typically demonstrate a ready willingness to alter shopping behavior, quickly adopting new technologies as they arise. More and more, shopping is moving out of physical stores, shifting to mobile devices and laptops.

The move to the multi-channel model of access, often referred to as omnichannel, could signal the introduction of new and cheaper sources of revenue for retailers. However, according to the EKN survey, it could also spell trouble if they continue to lag behind the more robust pace of their customers, squandering opportunities to capture new, more cost efficient strategies.

The EKN study revealed that 63 percent of the retailers surveyed identified their biggest concern as the accelerated adoption of new technologies by both customers and competitors. Moreover, 42 percent complain that their companies suffer from a lack of an IT department skilled enough to meet these challenges, and 48 percent worries that investment in new technologies wouldn’t produce an adequate rate of return.

Nevertheless, technological advancement is no guarantee of commercial success. EKN research director Guarav Pant explained that investment in omnichannel strategies is just one part of the retail puzzle. He said, “People think that if you put all of the technological bells and whistles in the store, it will be the best store. But it may end up being a mausoleum of technology. If [some technology] doesn’t work for the brand, it doesn’t make any sense.”