Retailers can't keep up with omnichannel demands

Customers are becoming more demanding when it comes to omnichannel retail, but retailers are having a difficult time meeting those demands.

Nearly three quarters, or 71 percent of shoppers, expect to view a retailer's in-store inventory online, according to a new survey by Accenture and Hybris Software. This feature has grown increasingly popular among brands that offer click-and-collect or ship-to-store programs. The survey results also indicate that 50 percent of shoppers expect retailers to offer click-and-pick-up programs and 39 percent of shoppers say they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer's store if its website does not provide physical store inventory information.

As customer demands become more strict, retailers are finding it difficult to keep up with multichannel initiatives. The study shows that nearly all (94 percent) of retail decision-makers said that their companies face significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel organization. The top concern for implementing such a strategy is due to technology barriers. According to the survey, 40 percent of retailers reported that they are having difficulty integrating the appropriate omnichannel technologies across all of their channels.

Personnel problems ranked second: only 46 percent of retailers have a dedicated omnichannel team in their home offices and another group of retailers said a lack of in-store associate training presented another hardship.

For retailers who have yet to jump on the omnichannel bandwagon, it could prove to be a huge missed opportunity. Last week, Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) credited its multichannel approach for helping its seven brands record the best holiday season for the enterprise in five years. E-commerce revenue now comprises nearly 44 percent of net revenues across all Williams-Sonoma brands, and the company plans to invest more resources to grow the channel.

Most recently, Deckers Outdoor (NASDAQ: DECK) opened its first brick-and-mortar store to extend its omnichannel promise. The location features several high-tech investments as part of an "innovation lab" to improve the retailer's omnichannel strategy. A station inside the store houses eight iPads where shoppers can order out-of-stock items online and ship them free of charge. A large touchscreen monitor installed in the wall allows shoppers to customize boots, slippers and other items and have them shipped to their doorstep.  

Sephora has been another big winner in the omnichannel realm, using its online clout to launch a shoppable social network called Beauty Board. The platform allows users to upload photos of their own makeup or hairstyle, add a caption and tag the beauty products used so other viewers can shop the exact products used to create the look. Beauty Board lives on for desktop and in the already-existing Sephora app for mobile. Sephora saw a 150 percent boost in mobile traffic last year. 

More than 1,500 multichannel shoppers and 256 decision-makers from retail and manufacturing organizations across the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany participated in the Accenture survey.

For more:
-See this Accenture and Hybris Software study

Related stories:
Deckers opens first brand showcase store, 'innovation lab' to boost omnichannel growth
Williams-Sonoma has record holiday, credits omnichannel strategy
Sephora launching its own social media website
Macy's turns to YouTube to grab millennials
Sephora realizes 150 percent growth in mobile