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Luxury Retailers Need to Upgrade Omnichannel Efforts

Omnichannel, arguably the biggest buzzword of the retail industry for more than a year, still manages to evade the majority of retailers.

According to a recent research study by consulting company Accenture, just 53 percent of U.S. merchants are currently optimized for tablets, while only 42 percent of shoppers surveyed find it easy to complete a purchase on a mobile device. Furthermore, 39 percent of consumers polled said brick-and-mortar stores are in need of improvement, too.

And money is not the issue. Despite being valued at $282 billion globally and considered the pinnacle of premium quality and service, the luxury sector continuously lags behind when it comes to offering a seamless experience across all channels.

While direct-to-consumer e-commerce is negligible in the category, 40 percent of high-end houses (including Chanel and Celine) still eschew the digital space, according to a report released Friday by digital research group L2. The report concluded that digital’s influence over in-store sales cannot be ignored.

Shoppers are now webrooming (buying in-store after researching online) more than showrooming (browsing in-store before buying online) and 80 percent of U.S. participants surveyed know what they want and how much they want to spend before their first interaction with a sales associate.

Additionally, in-store conversions rise 40 percent when consumers use digital before and during in-store shopping trips, while digital channels influenced an estimated 50 percent or $1.5 trillion of in-store sales in 2014, up from 36 percent in 2013.

“The conventional wisdom is that luxury fashion requires a high touch, in-person sale. But the more affluent the consumer, the more likely he or she is to own mobile devices and rely on them for product research and purchase,” said Eleanor Powers, director of Insight Reports at L2, noting that this is especially true for younger “emerging affluents.”

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“Convenience, accessibility and independence from sales representatives have become the new hallmarks of ‘low touch luxury,’” she added.

Within the “siloed” fashion world (where brands put more effort into such e-commerce incentives as free and same-day shipping rather than integrating e-commerce into brick-and-mortar operations), the strongest omnichannel players are currently Coach and Tory Burch, L2 revealed. “Both brands provide a seamless inventory status, leveraging local store inventory for in-store pick up,” Powers noted.

Burberry, meanwhile, has fallen behind due to aging site infrastructure. Powers pointed out that the British brand’s mobile presence is “a step behind, with limited options on product pages.” And while it does advertise a click-and-collect service, it ships product from a distribution center to a local retail store as opposed to leveraging existing store inventory for instant gratification.

“Brands need to be thinking about how they can optimize the shopping experience by blending online and offline channels,” she said.