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Leader or laggard, how omnichannel savvy are you?

September 25, 2015

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:


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 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:


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:


Despite the store locator function being integral to addressing consumers’ expectations of their online to offline shopping journey, the results found that:



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:

With this in mind, retailers should capitalise on these opportunities in the coming months to grow their omnichannel IQ and leadership for 2016.



Why Omni-channel is a key success factor for growth in retail

July 7, 2015


For the third year, the KPMG and The Consumer Goods Forum survey of senior consumer manufacturing and retail executives has been released: “To stand still is to fall behind: 2015 Global Consumer Executive Top of Mind Survey” is an instructive wealth of information for manufacturers and retailers about the reality of the international market for this particular sector catching up an expected economic rebound. The purpose of this blog post is to extract the insights brought by this survey on Omni-channel, Solocal Group UK’s area of expertise.

This survey aims “to help industry executives better understand the ever-changing impact of industry disruptors, competition and the economy on their companies’ strategic priorities”. Two notable facts are mainly highlighted in this survey asking 539 influent senior consumer manufacturing and retail executives over the world about their own strategic priorities for the coming years. The first one is the general focus on expansion or top line growth shared by all the panel. The second one is the way to achieve this top line growth.
For this second point, if the solutions are various to reach the growth, one particular mean seems to prevail. And this prevailing action is to develop the disruptive tool to stay into nowadays game for every retailer: omni-channel retailing.

Omni channel


Among all the priorities, one seems persistent: omni-channel  

Growth is without any doubt the main target and according to the survey 73% of the respondents said expansion or top line growth is very or critically important. To be more precise about 40% said it was critically important, and 42% said it was their number one focus.
Then arrives the Consumers trust and the Omni-channel strategy, which also represents for 25% of the respondents their greatest challenge.

The omni-channel strategy is rarely the first priority or the first investments, But the omni-channel strategy is always mentioned as one of the priorities or one of the strategic investments. If omni-channel strategy is a priority -but not the top priority- it is yet perceived as the best growth driver (53%) and this is probably why it is persistent. Omni-channel strategy is not a goal but a driver, and probably more by being a new conception of retailing.


Omni-channel is perceived, rightly, as an absolute tool for increasing the consumer trust, necessary for generating growth. It is obvious to say consumers always have a technological lead over retailers, and their capability to use new consumption means are a key point to take into account, in a way to satisfy them and create a deeper engagement and trust. For retailers, digital tools and an omni-channel distribution are necessary to provide an expected service for their customer.

As the survey mentioned it “The omni-channel is still relatively new, but technology disruptions are, by now, par for the course for the consumer-driven industry. It has – and will remain – on the bleeding edge of change. Omni-channel has the ultimate goal of letting every consumer shop and purchase on their terms – a tall order indeed.”  For that reason omni-channel is considered as both a key area targeted for investment and a top challenge. Digital retailing is on an edge; on one side there is the threat of being too conservative and then overtaken, on the other side the opportunity to take serious competitive advantages over one’s competitors. The right balance is into the consumer’s hands and experience, asking for new sales and distributions channels and a shopping experience using tools he knows best.


Omni-channel use is a pillar of nowadays goods and services distribution organisation

Omni-channel retailing is a proof of customer understanding. By offering the customer the possibility of using new sales and distribution channels, retailers are improving customer experience. This point is strategic for any expansive customer acquisition strategy. At the question “Which of the following strategies are most likely to drive your company’s top line growth over the next two years?” the first answer elected, before customer retention, customer acquisition and targeting new demographic groups, is new sales channels and distribution strategies. The reason is simple; new sales channels and distribution strategies would automatically bring more customers, maintain the former ones and reach the new demographic groups already using the new channels.
The two most common strategies for developing loyalty identified through the survey are “exceeding customer expectations” and “engagement in social media conversations”. How to exceed customer expectations without using digital retailing tools when online, and especially mobile, has become so important in the customer purchasing behaviour? How to engage in social media without developing a new digital channel up to the supply chain?

The supply chain process should evolve completely to be part of an omni-channel distribution process. Supply chain through an omni-channel scope is a clear enabler to growth. A customer-driven industry, as retail is, needs to rethink from the beginning to the end its supply chain. Nowadays, customers identify and localise shops before purchasing. They also look after local store inventories to know where the closest place to get a product is and if the product can be delivered or collected on the same day. The digital disruptive promise is to purchase whenever and wherever. The whole supply chain needs to be built accordingly to a competitive omni-channel strategy and offer. Linear and analogic processes are replaced by horizontal and cross-channel strategies in nowadays digital reality.


Innovation always has two sides of a coin. It might seem risky but also might be a key competitive advantage. To convert any innovation into growth, customer behaviour knowledge is necessary, and a key point to create loyalty is to answer to customer’s use expectations. There is more to lose by being overtaken by competitors who provide the expected disruptive omni-channel shopping experience, than by innovating.

The use of technologies use has radically evolved these last five years. Rather than destroying stores, the disruption brought by the digital tools and online shopping have changed the way one’s goes in them. This disruption does not take customers away from shops but creates new means of experience. Customers ask for more detailed information, such as opening hours, product availability, promotions, delivery time and are ready to create a truly new relation with brands through the brands’ digital and physical assets, creating new connections between retailers and customers.      


Omni-channel is the retail new pillar, a disruptive pillar which is radically reversing common processes. Answering customers’ will is perceived – rightly – as a key for growth and as the retailers’ main goal today. Omni-channel revolutionises linear organisation systems and imposes a diagonal and cross-channel vision in every retailing aspect.
Omni-channel strategy is the core of a new retail vision, driven by customer behaviour which directs any external growth ambition. This distribution model becoming the new retailing, marketing and distribution strategies matrix because it imposes to redefine each supply chain step – from provision to delivery, through ordering, stock management, communication and CRM.
Solocal Group UK has been aware for long of the digital tools disruptive impact and the upheaval this results in consumer habits as this was covered in a previous blog post on “Bridging the gaps on the customer journey”. In particular, Solocal Group UK’s web-to-store solution Leadformance has been developing and operating a SAAS platform of digital tools that enable retailers to adapt to these new consumer patterns. This platform is currently used by more than 160 brands worldwide. Please contact Solocal Group UK team if you want to discuss further how your brand can grow its business by implementing omni-channel solutions fitting the expectations of the customers.


My Customer – Why is Amazon launching a physical store – and what will it mean for retail?

October 10, 2014


According to reports, Amazon is set to open its first bricks-and-mortar store in New York City in time for the holiday season.

The Wall Street Journal claims that the online retailing giant will launch its first physical shop in Manhattan, specifically 7 West 34th Street – a location that has a staggering footfall thanks to its proximity to the Empire State Building, which attracts over 4 million visitors a year.

The WSJ claims it will serve as a mini-warehouse and a click-and-collect destination, as well as cater for product returns and same-day deliveries in the city.

So if the reports are correct, why is Amazon – the company that has pushed many traditional retailers to the brink of extinction with its aggressive online business model – moving into bricks-and-mortar retail?

“The opening of Amazon’s first physical store is a great indicator that the High Street will never die,” notes Martin Smethurst, MD of retail at Wincor Nixdorf. “Consumers still, and always will, want a shopping experience where they can touch, feel and play with products before they purchase – particularly when it comes to hi-tech or high ticket items.