Report: Most Retailers Say Omnichannel is Critical, Yet Few Have Mastered It

A new report published by Multichannel Merchant and retail management systems provider Brightpearl found 87% of retailers agree omnichannel is a critical business function, yet only 8% believe they have mastered it, an enormous gap between importance and execution.

More than 90% of respondents said they either have an omnichannel strategy or plan to invest in one soon.

“The State of Omnichannel” presents findings from a survey of 352 retail leaders, representing a cross-section ranging from small independent companies to enterprise level.

In addition to the large execution gap, other key findings from the report include:

  • Almost half of retailers (45%) say they either do not have the right omnichannel technology or feel they would benefit from additional technology platforms
  • Over half of retailers consider their omnichannel approach a “work in progress” and 19% say it is a “struggle” or a “pipe dream.” Seventy-four percent expressed dissatisfaction with their strategy execution and progress
  • More than six out of ten survey respondents said the key payoff from implementing omnichannel successfully is providing better customer service

“The ability to effectively operate across all possible retail channels is difficult,” said Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl. “The retail industry is undergoing a metamorphosis unlike anything it has experienced in decades. Customers are demanding, competitors are relentless in their pursuit of customer acquisition, and operational challenges abound as retail extends beyond brick and mortar to include online sales driven by mobile commerce.”

Despite this, execution needs significant improvement, O’Carroll added. Retailers need to invest more time and resources in technology to effectively implement their omnichannel strategies or face being left behind. Critical areas to be addressed include capturing and analyzing data to gain deep shopper insights and ultimately enhance the customer experience.

“Today’s customer expects retailers to know him or her,” O’Carroll said. “This is made difficult when the merchant spends considerable time on cost-consuming back-end processes. Instead, technology that automates back-office processes like order fulfillment, carrier integrations, automated accounting and integrated purchase ordering can free retailers to focus more time on creating authentic experiences across platforms.”

Embracing the promise is not the same as implementing strategies and technology. Just four years ago, less than 50% of retailers pursued an omnichannel approach. Today the interest is high but the execution needs substantial improvement, as strategies and platforms are ineffective or not delivering on their promises.

The full report is available for download here. It includes insights and benchmarks on:

  • What omnichannel means to retailers
  • How omnichannel is used
  • Management of sales spikes and returns
  • Challenges and C-level hurdles

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