Retail might be sick of the “omnichannel” buzzword but the principles of seamlessly integrating channels remain as important as ever, as brands wield their assets, both online and off, against formidable foes like Amazon.
For the past six years, Gartner L2 has measured progress on the omnichannel front to gauge whether brands and retailers are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to maximizing the benefits of each channel. Brands earning a leader spot grew 9 percent in 2018 to make up 31 percent of the group comprised of 100 retailers and digitally native brands. However, most (36 percent) still fall into the laggard category, indicating further room for improvement.
Across five areas of investment, most brands enabled in-store order pickup during the checkout process, which saw gains of 49 percent year over year. Overall, retailers offering click-and-collect services surged 14 percent from 2017 to 2018 while 78 percent of fashion brands enable in-store pickup of online purchases.
More than two-thirds (67 percent) re-exposed real time inventory data on product detail pages in 2018, up from 61 percent the year prior. Fashion brands posted even more notable gains, showing the largest investment in this area across all sectors. Up from 33 percent the year prior, in 2018 more than three quarters (78 percent) of brands selling apparel show shoppers in-stock information on product pages. Ninety percent of department stores also reveal this information, 30 percent more than in 2017.
Responding to customer demand for a variety of fulfillment options, retail operators made an effort to expand pickup and delivery services. Free shipping saw the largest year-on-year increase, with 85 percent of surveyed respondents offering this option, up from 76 percent in 2017. All nine surveyed department stores allow shoppers to pick up an online purchase in stores, while just 57 percent of fashion brands offer this service.
Most participating in the survey display their stores’ hours of operations (94 percent) and a link showing how to navigate to any given location (91 percent). Seventy-five percent display a store locator on the header bar of their website homepage, an improvement over the 72 percent that did so last year. Fewer include additional value-add features; nearly two-thirds (65 percent) detail services or collections at the store level, an 11 percent increase from the prior year, while 39 percent allow customers to book in-store appointments, a 1 percent dip from 2017.
There’s little reason why retailers would choose not to display such store-level information, Gartner L2 said, “given their relatively low complexity of implementation, as well as their ability to kickstart online-to-offline customer journeys.”
The slow and steady improvements in omnichannel retailing indicate a growing awareness of the need to narrow the gap between winners and losers in the race to attract customers. “The progress witnessed from retailers of all sectors indicates a commitment to digital, and a renewed sense of urgency to catch up with innovators,” Gartner L2 said.