Omnichannel initiatives have dominated eBusiness priority lists for a few years now, and leading retailers have been doubling down their investments in omnichannel fulfillment technology. Most of the focus, however, has gone toward store fulfillment of online orders and click-and-collect functionality. Why did these capabilities rise to the top? Because of their clear financial impact on the business, as well as minimal impact on store and associate processes.
But considering that roughly nine out of ten retail sales still take place offline, a much larger opportunity exists when retailers leverage inventory while the customer is shopping within a store. By offering the ability to fulfill out-of-stock items from any location within the enterprise, endless aisle tools offer a scalable tactic for retailers to drive incremental revenue. Today's endless aisle programs allow retailers to:
Meet customer expectations. Consumers expect the conveniences of eCommerce—including virtually unlimited inventory and assortment—regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in the physical store. Forrester data shows that in the event that an item is out of stock, over half of US online adults would opt to have a store associate order the item for them if they could get it shipped for free. Offering endless aisle capabilities means never having to say you’re sorry to customers looking to buy your products.
The in-store shopping experience is increasingly being transformed into a digitally enhanced experience for both the customer and retailer. Technologies such as beacons, retail store analytics, and store fulfillment programs are rapidly changing the definition of how a retail store operates and engages with customers. While 68% of customers use a mobile device while in a store, retailers are just beginning to take an active role in that in-store digital experience.
Forrester believes that, in the future, retail stores that drive convenience, service, and relevant personalized experiences through the use of digital store technology will succeed. Why? Because today. customers show an affinity for digital store technology. In fact, 66% of luxury apparel customers are more likely to shop with a digitally-enabled associate. Those retailers who wait on the sidelines are at risk of maintaining the status quo and may only grow marginally.
In the Age of the Customer, consumers are increasingly empowered. They decide where, when, and how they engage with organizations as they shop. European consumers are using multiple devices along their path to purchase and almost a quarter are buying online from outside their home market. This is a growth opportunity for retailers in larger eCommerce markets where online retail sales growth is slowing. These cross border buyers are a valuable target group and more likely to use mobile devices as they shop.
Yet researching and buying across multiple devices and touchpoints is not restricted to those that are happy to buy online from other countries. Across the board, consumers are using smartphones and tablets more frequently and across multiple contexts. Forrester’s updated mobile and tablet commerce forecast predicts that mobile and tablet commerce combined will account for 20% of online sales in 2014 increasing to 49% of online sales by 2018.
Mobile phones, smartphones in particular, bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping experiences. In 2015, European consumers’ increasingly multitouchpoint shopping behavior will heighten eBusiness professionals’ attention on the influence of digital across the customer journey and into stores.
Forrester believes that, for Europe, 2015 will be a year of experimentation. We predict that:
Order management systems (OMS’s) typically haven’t garnered the same attention as other commerce technology. Orchestrating online orders from the point of purchase through to the point of fulfillment was viewed (through the eyes of eBusiness professionals) as a back-office process. In fact, eBusiness professionals have historically paid little attention to these systems and were happy for them to be developed and minded by supply chain or enterprise architecture professionals. But like the awkward kid at school, Omnichannel OMS systems have blossomed and turned into the must-have technology for almost every eBusiness leader.
My dad came over today for a visit today. He’s an avid reader and consumes The New York Times from front to back. I guess you could say he’s part of my research team as he frequently cuts out articles for me related to digital business. This past weekend he brought over the front page of the business section, profiling the use of tablets in the quick serve restaurant category. Although many digital technologies in physical spaces have yet to transform shopping behavior, the restaurant industry has one of the stronger use-cases to employ digital, including:
Improving service by eliminating waiting in line. At Panera, customers go straight to their table and order via their smartphones. No more waiting in line to order, and standing around for your order to be ready.
Increasing average order size and margins with contextual meal recommendations. Chili’s employs tablets that drive up order size by providing meal recommendations that may have a higher price point, higher margin, or is highly rated. In their tests they indicate a 20% lift in dessert sales! Yum.
Expediting service and improving accuracy. Restaurant staff has a lot to gain by employing digital technology. They can reallocate cashiers to kitchen or service roles, and having customers order at the table improves order accuracy.
One of my first jobs was as a sales associate at a clothing store, after which mall shopping lost any of the leisurely appeal it once held. I still find myself folding clothes I didn't unfurl and fixing hanger hooks to all face the same direction.Chalk it up to knowing how the sausage is made, or perhaps a logical side effect of working in eCommerce research, but I do most of my shopping online these days.
The store shopping experience hasn’t changed much since my time as a sales associate. But that’s all about to change. We’re at the beginning of a retail transformation: The growing percentage of retail revenues driven by eCommerce and the influence of digital technologies on consumer behavior and expectations alike means that retailers are being forced to reevaluate the value proposition of the store. The result? A digitally enhanced retail store.
Today, a mix of technologies are coming together to marry the online and offline experiences to revolutionize in-store shopping and the role of the physical store. However, we’re still in early stages. Many of these initiatives remain in experimental phases, and glaring success stories are few and far between. Despite the rarity of iron-clad business cases for these initiatives, eBusiness professionals and their colleagues in store operations are forging ahead.
Together with eCommerce technology analyst Adam Silverman, I recently published a report laying out the current state of digital store initiatives and the promising opportunities a digital store overhaul represents for retail. Some of the ways retailers are transforming retail stores include:
The prospect of remote collection lockers and click & collect points replacing London Underground ticket offices sparked a round of strikes last week, creating havoc for commuters. The second round of planned strikes was only narrowly averted this week.
Transport for London’s (TFL) proposal to close 240 underground ticket offices and replace them with automatic ticket machines will result in a proportion of job losses for station staff but present an opportunity for TFL and UK retailers alike, by:
Responding to the popularity of click and collect in the UK. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® Retail Survey data shows that UK shoppers are responding to retailers’ omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, readily adopting click & collect services. UK grocery stores Asda, Waitrose and Tesco are not waiting for the closure of ticket offices. They are already setting up trials for click & collect services at selected stations across the London Underground network. The click and collect service will allow shoppers to order their food online before a cut-off point during the day, for collection at their local station on their way home in the evening.
The bank I mainly use for my daily banking needs does not offer that many examples of great customer experiences. The two reasons why my family continues to use that bank are the high number of ATMs in the area where we live and a very customer-oriented branch advisor. Our most recent interaction with that bank (but not with that advisor) delivered yet another example of “great” customer service across channels, an experience that will likely cause us to look for a new bank. The chances that this yet-to-be-determined bank can offer better cross-channel capabilities at least at some point in the future are not bad at all: Many financial services firms are evolving beyond using just a single channel to get in touch with their customers (see the figure below).
Last week I was thrilled to attend and present at the annual Shop.org event in the great city of Chicago. I attended many great presentations, talked at length with the vendor community, and broke bread with some of my old eComm friends. One observation that was more apparent to me this year is the massive transformation happening in retail. It feels more dynamic than it did at the peak of the dot com boom of the late 90’s. For me there were clear trends emerging:
There is a palpable divide between forward looking retailers and those stuck in second gear. Going after incremental improvements such as checkout funnel analysis and improving page load speeds are still important functions, but these are now table stakes that most digital businesses employ. Forward looking retailers go beyond site optimization and look at advanced analytics, leverage social graph data to better understand their customers, and employ mobile strategies that add contextual relevance rather than simply emulate the website.
Omnichannel is the hottest topic, but it means different things to different people. The reality is most retailers fail to understand the complexity around creating a seamless experience for customers, and often fall back on defining their omnichannel initiatives as simply creating a singular presentation across all touch points. For organizations to truly support the needs of the customer, they need to focus on aligning supply chain, fulfillment, customer service, and operations around the specific needs of the customer. For instance, enabling the store associate to engage digitally-savvy customers requires new training, new technologies that facilitate assisted selling, and new compensation paradigms that reward the associate for driving sales in any touch point.