Leader or laggard, how omnichannel savvy are you?
There have recently been a number of industry publications sharing interesting insights on the ever-growing omnichannel trend. In examining the role of omnichannel, there are a number of things marketers should think about, such as:
- How will physical and digital channels change in strategic importance in the next year?
- How far advanced are retailers in integrating physical and digital channels?
- How will retailers execute their omnichannel strategies, will they look to work with external partners, and in what areas will they look for support?
Let’s examine the answers to these questions below.
How will physical and digital channels change in strategic importance in the next years?
A report, “Online Retailing in Europe, the U.S. and Canada 2015‐2016”, released by the Center for Retail Research for RetailMeNot provides us with the following figures:
- The European countries with the largest online sales in 2015 will be the UK ($85bn), Germany ($72bn) and France ($50bn)
- The highest market share of online will also be found in the UK (15.2%), Germany (11.6%) and France (8.0%), the European average being 8.4%. In the U.S., the share of online will be of 12.7%
- The European countries with the largest mobile share of online spending are expected to be the UK (28.6%), Germany (27.7%) and Sweden (26.2%), the European average being 20.0% (26.8% in the U.S.).
The figures show the combination of a growth of online and a slight anticipated decrease of offline, which remains the undisputed main channel even in the UK where online is most developed representing 15.2% of all retail sales.
It is important to understand then, that online is not only a standalone sales channel but it is actually influencing offline sales. This fact has been conceptualised as “web-influenced” sales, to demonstrate the full importance of the digital channel and its interactions with the physical channel, which are at the core of omnichannel. Recent reports by Deloitte and Forrester Research further support the importance of the “web-influenced” sphere. In fact, in its “Navigating The New Digital Divide” report, Deloitte estimates that the percentage of in-store sales influenced by digital has grown steadily from 14% in 2012, to 36% in 2013, 49% in 2014, 64% in 2015 and should be close to 100% in 2019. Forrester is more conservative however, forecasting that by 2020 digital will influence 53% of total retail sales in EU-7, including a combination of online sales and offline sales influenced by online research.
In this environment where sales in physical stores remain the standard but are increasingly influenced by digital, a recent survey of 200 retail CxOs in Europe from Pierre Audoin Consultants, “Omnichannel Retail in Europe”, shows that the European retailers expect digital channels to become more strategically important in the next five years, but not at the expense of the store. Some 85% of German retailers and 80% of their French peers believe that the physical branch will become more strategically important by 2020, compared to 62% of retailers in the UK.
A report from the Center for Retail Research, states that successful retailers will be defined by their ability to operate online as an omnichannel business, as well as operating physical stores in a very competitive environment. The physical store will continue to go through an optimisation phase which has already started: a recent study by L2, “Omnichannel Retail 2015”, has shown that omnichannel leaders have been closing stores and optimising the performance of remaining ones simultaneously, achieving a better global store performance overall compared to omnichannel laggards. Moving forward, retailers should therefore work at merging the physical and digital worlds through strategies such as drive to store, phygital and store to web. Aside from pure players, which limit themselves to the online channel, retailers are listening to their customers – the ones driving omnichannel in many instances. In a survey from Pierre Audoin Consultants, 85% of European retailers stated that their omnichannel retail strategy is in place because customers are demanding it, while 89% said that their omnichannel initiatives are being driven by a need to improve the customer experience.
How far advanced are retailers in integrating physical and online channels?
For L2, whether a retailer has a strong “omnichannel IQ” or not is determined by their investments in the following:
- Site (fulfillment/integrated inventory, store locator such as Solocal’s BRIDGE, in-store events & services, account, online exclusives and CRM)
- Email (discounting channels, in-store incentives)
- Mobile (site and apps)
- In-store (point of sale, CRM, in-store capabilities)
L2 warns companies not to forget about the real essence of omnichannel: many organisations still think about omnichannel as an extension of their digital business or as a sexier name for e-commerce, evidenced by the fact that 41% of executives in senior omnichannel roles come directly from an e-commerce background. By failing to adopt a holistic approach, retailers miss the opportunity for clicks/bricks interplay.
So how are retailers performing on these aspects? IAB Europe recently conducted an Advertiser Mobile Audit on where the top media spending automotive and retail brands in nine European countries (including the UK) stand in relation to their mobile properties (websites and apps). In this audit, 219 automotive brands (approximately the top 25 in each market) and 394 retail brands (approximately the top 50 in each market) were audited against the following criteria, very much matching the ones mentioned by L2:
- Sites: mobile optimised site; responsive web design; GPS store locator (desktop site); book a test drive functionality (desktop site) for automotive or transactional (e-commerce) mobile site for retail; desktop site speed and mobile site speed
- Apps: iOS mobile app ; iOS tablet app ; Android mobile app ; Android tablet app; GPS store locator (apps); book a test drive functionality (for automotive only, on apps) for automotive or Transactional (e-commerce) mobile and tablet apps for retail
Despite the store locator function being integral to addressing consumers’ expectations of their online to offline shopping journey, the results found that:
- Only 62% of the automotive brands audited have a GPS store locator on their desktop website and this percentage is even as low as 28% in the UK. This is even lower on mobile and tablet apps where only 36% of the automotive brands (20% in the UK) audited have a GPS store locator, even though mobile and tablet are now more used than desktop.
- Only 64% of the retail brands audited have a GPS store locator on their desktop website (also 64% in the UK). Again this is lower on mobile and tablet app where only 40% of the retail brands audited have a GPS store locator (48% in the UK)
How will retailers execute their omnichannel strategies? Will they look to work with external partners, and in what areas will they look for support?
Pierre Audoin Consultants’ report states that non-tech challenges are the biggest omnichannel headaches with more than 80% of the companies interviewed stating that the development of a long-term channel integration strategy was a major challenge, while three quarters named transforming internal organisation structures as a pressing concern.
The biggest regional differences were in the responses from German and UK retailers. The development of a long-term strategy is a huge concern for the former (cited by 73% as a major
challenge), as was the need to make changes to the organisational structure (68%). But UK retailers are much more optimistic on long-term strategy planning (38% see it as a major challenge), and instead are much more concerned about understanding customer activity across multiple channels (43% vs 15% in Germany).
Support from third-party service providers is welcomed: the majority of retailers (57%) believe that they would benefit from external support in implementing and integrating omnichannel solutions. This reflects how stretched many internal IT teams at retailer companies have become in 2015, and shows that retailers have an appreciation of how difficult it can be to drive channel integration – not just in terms of technology, but also in transforming and optimising business processes. Retailers should aim to use best-of–breed, ‘off the shelf’ technologies, such as Solocal’s BRIDGE for store locators, to ease time and cost investment.
Improving omnichannel IQ by listening to the market and acting with agility
Let’s summarise this post’s key learnings:
- The physical channel will remain much more important than the digital one in retail as most of the retail sales will still happen in stores
- But the shopping journey is increasingly influenced by digital, with web-influenced sales representing between 53% and close to 100% of retail sales by 2020
- It is no longer web vs stores but web and stores – omnichannel is all about how to connect and cross-nurture these two channels to meet consumers’ expectations
- However not all retailers have taken this into account and there are still many laggards even among top brands
- A surprisingly high 36% of top retail brands and 72% of top automotive brands don’t have a store locator on their desktop website and this is even more on mobile and tablet app where 52% of top retail brands and 80% of top automotive brands don’t have a store locator
- Challenges in executing omnichannel strategies are mostly non-tech, and retailers are increasingly looking to engage with external partners on tech to focus on solving these headaches
With this in mind, retailers should capitalise on these opportunities in the coming months to grow their omnichannel IQ and leadership for 2016.