Over the years we at attune have talked a lot about what it takes to craft the ideal omnichannel experience, and the importance of going beyond the cursory approach of simply ticking the correct boxes of online, in-store,and mobile commerce platforms. While it is vital to be able to sell to customers in all channels, it is not enough to simply be present. Omnichannel fashion is only good when it genuinely engages consumers in a meaningful way, as borne out most recently in research published by L2.
In a study benchmarking a total of 97 retailers, L2 found that only five were able to implement a true omnichannel strategy by offering consumers a fully integrated, seamless shopping experience and an easy path from their website to their retail stores. And of those five, only one fashion retailer made the grade, indicating that the fashion industry, as a whole, is still lagging in regard to omnichannel maturity.
The journey for multichannel fashion retailers seeking to capture and retain market share is expected to be even more challenging in 2017. Increased channels means increased choice, leaving consumers with a veritable deluge of retail products, channels, and payment options to pick from, based solely on their own convenience and individual preferences.
Leveraging this new ability to reach consumers at any time and place has unleashed exponential growth in sales volumes for digitally innovative omnichannel pioneers. However, as L2’s latest findings have proven, many others still grapple with the constant challenge of maintaining competitiveness in this new omnichannel landscape.
Common omnichannel pitfalls
There is a common thread in the challenges faced by brands attempting to build their omnichannel strategy, and with good reason. Without the omnichannel basics in place, it is almost impossible to craft sophisticated, seamless consumer experiences. And without such experiences, fashion retailers will always struggle to keep pace with the competition.
Some of the most common failures in omnichannel strategies that we have seen include:
1. Failure to integrate sales channels
Among the most common missteps for fashion retailers is a failure to integrate their sales channels into a single vertically integrated omnichannel platform, instead treating each channel as a separate silo. This, in turn, forces brands to manage three separate systems, each with its own supply chain and inventory allocation processes. Since each channel is designed in isolation from the requirements and processes of each other, they are unable to easily communicate with each other. Hence, brands are forced to develop specialized software to achieve even modest visibility and control over their cross-channel processes.
2. Failure to manage out-of-stocks and share inventory visibility
One of the most frustrating experiences for fashion consumers is when they are told they can purchase a particular product in a given channel, only to later find that the item is sold out. For example, a customer checks a product online and visits the store to make the purchase, where they learn that online inventories are available but in-store stocks have been cleared, or vice versa. Each out-of-stock incident represents a lost opportunity for fashion brands. In addition to lost revenue, more importantly, it could mean the loss of a customer at a time when brand loyalty is a fashion retailer’s most valuable currency.
3. Failure to engage omnichannel customers
As mentioned at the outset and highlighted in L2’s Intelligence Report, brands that attempt to slap an omnichannel label on to what is essentially a basic multichannel strategy do not gain any significant competitive advantage. Omnichannel consumers need to be engaged by novel experiences and innovative uses of technology that creates seamless experiences across online, in-store, and mobile channels. In essence, omnichannel success belongs to those who are able to offer their customers and treat all three sales channels as a whole.
Preparing for growing demands and challenges
The increasing ubiquity of omnichannel strategies in fashion retail are forcing brands to adapt. However, as L2’s research indicates, the field is still largely populated by brands that claim to offer a complete omnichannel strategy but largely fail to deliver. This represents a major opportunity for growth among brands that are willing to commit to spearheading strategies focused on digital innovation.
In order for fashion retailers to successfully execute their strategy of developing a true omnichannel experience, they must:
- Completely integrate their sales channels
- Develop real-time inventory visibility across the entire business incl. their supply chain
- Be agile enough to respond to out-of-stocks by redirecting inventories from other channels
- Provide consumers with real-time updates on availability of a given product
- Engage with and create a deeper understanding of individual consumer preferences
- Enable store associates to reserve and ship merchandise from other store locations for in-store customers
- Enable consumers to buy and/or return products at any location and via any sales channel
While it’s difficult to predict what the immediate future holds for fashion retail, it is clear that technology-driven innovation is quickly becoming the norm for delivering a contemporary shopping experience, and that there are significant growth opportunities open to those who get the basics right.
If you’re a fashion, lifestyle or cosmetics retailer and want to learn how the above issues can be solved, visit the attune booths at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida or the SAP Retail Forum in Mainz, Germany.