It’s Time To Start Catering To The Omnichannel Shopper

Todd Wasserman

As many consumers know, online shopping platforms like Amazon can be valuable time savers. When an old item wears out or a shopper needs to get her hands on a new product, ordering on Amazon can save the trouble of a trip to the store. This time adds up: Research indicates the average customer visits a supermarket 2.2 times a week, and in 2011 the average woman shopped 301 days of the year – nearly every day! Shopping online can certainly help cut back on all those shopping trips.

In reality though, most consumers don’t plan their purchases too far in advance. Say you realized you needed a pair of nail clippers. You might decide to buy a pair on Amazon, rather than visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Then you realize you’re out of milk and you need to go to the supermarket that day. Wouldn’t it be nice to merely change your online order so that you could pick up both items at your local store instead? Wouldn’t it also be nice to return an item to your local store rather than send it back via the mail?

Consumers are beginning to expect this type of omnichannel retail experience. A 2014 SAP survey of marketing decision makers found 86% agreed that omnichannel has meant that consumer expectations on the organization have increased. The same percentage of respondents also said they agreed that the benefits of investing in omnichannel made up for the challenges.

Despite such awareness among executives, omnichannel efforts often fall short. A survey in 2015 for instance found that 50% of shoppers who opted to pick up items at a local store that they bought online ran into problems. A recent survey from L2 found that of 97 retailers, only five “deliver[ed] both a strong online shopping experience and an easy path from their website to their retail stores.”

Unfortunately, retailers don’t have much time to figure this out as consumer expectations continue to shift. Here are five reasons why the omnishopper is here to stay:

  1. Amazon is moving into brick-and-mortar. Not content to own 43%of the U.S. online retail market, Amazon has recently started opening brick-and-mortar stores. Unlike its competitors’ stores, Amazon’s are completely omnichannel. Amazon’s Seattle bookstore, for instance, doesn’t feature price tags on its books. Instead, customers can scan them to view the price (which is reduced if you’re a Prime member.)
  1. Mobile commerce is growing. Ubiquitous bandwidth and consumers’ increasing comfort with – and attachment to – their smartphones will fuel smartphone-based commerce. EMarketer predicts that by 2020, mobile commerce sales will reach $335.84 billion, about three times the number in 2016. A smartphone makes omnichannel even more seamless. If a customer is in the store and can’t find an item, the customer can search for other places to purchase – unless the retailer makes it easier and more worthwhile to buy from them.
  1. Same-day delivery is becoming more common. Amazon’s aggressive marketing of same-day delivery is erasing the natural advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers hold. Retailers’ best chance to compete is by offering curbside pickup linked to online ordering.
  1. New technologies will make it even easier to shop from home. Being able to touch and feel products is another big advantage that brick-and-mortar stores have over online retailers. However, virtual reality may help even the score. Already, some retailers are using VR to help consumers virtually search their shelves from home.
  1. Online retailers are going after bastions like groceries and clothing. Amid Amazon’s rise, supermarkets have been a safe haven. But even this is changing now that Amazon is actively chasing that market. At the same time, home try-on technologies and services like Trunk Club are making clothing stories virtually superfluous. If you’re skeptical, look at the $1.2 billion valuation Warby Parker has carved out of the eyeglass market thanks in part to at-home try-ons.

As the SAP survey showed, most retailers are aware of the omnichannel threat. Yet, too often, silos, legacy systems, and legacy thinking prevent them from adapting to consumer needs. As Sears’ and Macy’s recent troubles show though, there’s no time to lose. If retailers don’t begin catering to the omnishopper, she’ll decide to shop elsewhere.

SAP Hybris has been recognized as a leader in The Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Suites, Q1 2017 report. Download the FREE report to find out more.