Omnichannel retail is causing omnipresent problems

online shoppingThe growth of online shopping may have fuelled a raft of new consumer engagement channels but this is causing a major headache for some firms, with nearly half (47%) admitting there are simply too many channels for them to effectively deliver the best experience.

This is according to Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology’s “Brands don’t fail… eRetail!” report, which found nearly all (94%) retail CEOs, founders and C-Level executives claim to have a multi-channel strategy in place despite many not knowing what a successful approach looks like or how to best harness the slew of available channels amid a sea of digitally native competitors.

Two-thirds (66%) concede they could be using digital channels more efficiently and 44% struggle to deliver a consistent brand experience across every channel. Nearly half (49%) fail to benchmark their own omnichannel initiatives to evaluate success.

While three-fifths (59%) said their organisations have tailored strategies for individual platforms, as few as one-in-10 (11%) believe there is no differentiation and – perhaps more worryingly – 29% did not even know.

Marketplaces were seen as the easiest channel to sell through by over a third (35%) of leaders, closely followed by social platforms (33%). The prominence of marketplaces may prove to be a double-edged sword, however, with two-thirds (68%) saying they are vital to their brand’s future but 42% seeing their growth as a threat.

And in a warning shot to the high street, physical stores are rapidly falling off bosses’ priority lists. Only 11% of budget is expected to be spent on bricks and mortar and under one-in-five (17%) think it is the easiest channel to sell through, ranking last among all channels in both cases. This lack of attention is perhaps unsurprising given three in five (60%) find it difficult to compete with digitally native brands and marketplaces.

Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology director of e-retail and marketplaces EMEA Ken Platt said: “Online competition is as high as it’s ever been and brands that fail to recognise the unique opportunities presented by different channels risk being left behind by peers.

“It’s not easy to balance coherent and consistent brand principles while devising dedicated strategies for every audience, but it’s a challenge retailers need to overcome. A true omnichannel framework recognises that no channel is perfect and instead focuses on putting all of the jigsaw pieces together.”

Even so, it appears as though much of the market has caught on to the retail media boom, with two-thirds (67%) saying they have already implemented a retail media strategy. However, 34% remain unclear on what an effective retail media network entails, adding another complex channel to understand to the retail mixing pot.

Unsurprisingly, 57% say it is hard to find agency partners with the right retail media expertise to help them make investments in retail media, even with data at their fingertips. 53% go as far to say it is difficult to identify the right retailer sites to buy media on to drive traffic and sales.

Platt concluded: “Retailers are increasingly seeing the value in reaching shoppers directly at the digital point of purchase, particularly as the depreciation of third-party cookies makes it harder to understand what customers want.

“Retail media not only uses first-party data and offers better ROI, it offers clarity in a world with fragmented channels and waning budgets. Leaders aren’t on their own when embarking on this journey, but time is ticking and it’s only a matter of time before slow movers are truly left out in the cold.”

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