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US Omni-Channel Retail Index - Best Practice insights

The concept of omni-channel has been around for some time now and it consistently overplays its hand in my opinion. Omni-channel will have no omni-presence until the convergence of many systems and processes is greater. I read a very interesting piece from Joe Tarragano and his emphatic message to retailers was not to try to be Amazon and it really got me thinking about the differentiation. Technology for technology people and retailer for retail people. I was lucky enough to work with Joe and I know what he means about the transferable mindset. It is hard to not do what you are good at. We see the UK market as being the holy grail of eCommerce – it is not too shabby at all. However, when it comes to bench-marking, its time to turn firmly to our buddies over the pond.

The report I am summarising is the NRF and FitForCommerce 2015 Omni-channel retail index. It has taken a customer view on best practice with some great tangible examples to get your teeth into. I will be taking this with me into the office today and seeing do we deliver this for our US clients. These seem like basics, but it is clear to me that there is an obvious connection across functions with each part of the puzzle contributing what it needs to, and importantly in the right way to deliver the ultimate customer omni-channel experience.

As silly season has kicked off, i thought it good to note that 20% of the US holiday shoppers, started their purchasing in September of earlier. However, 35% of the same sample set were still shopping by the first 2 weeks in December with 41% not shopping until the last 2 weeks of the month – horses for courses right? Peoples spending power is clearly staggered and in my opinions, this asks questions of the promotional cadence in the run up to Black Friday and what happens there after? Staggered, considered and not carte blanche is what the retailer in me says – and my CFO too.


How to entice customers into store from an online mobile device?

Simple, tell them how much inventory you have by store – Over 50% of the stores surveyed provided this functionality to their customers. And 49% of them, do this through mobile also. Imagine online and retail teams working with this level of cohesion? You can even filter by in store only ! ((15% of the group). A lot of co ordination required but up sell, cross sell and non product based incentives come into play immediately with this type of offering.

Interestingly only 28% of the retailers surveyed viewed Buy online pick up in store as being necessary for their stores. Missed opportunities surely for in store up-selling.

Cross Device Experience

The importance of the omni experience cannot be underestimated. In 2014 70% of holiday shoppers made some portion of their holiday spend online – that’s a BIG number. Women faired best in the “most likely to buy online” category with 74% of them buying gifts online. The benefits of cross channel selling is evident with 40% of shoppers deeming 24 hour convenience of online shopping as being important with 25% of the group liked the ease of price comparison, a particularly relevant function of any holiday shopper. This is where a co ordinate, planned approach to in store events and marketing is critical in retaining the long tail shoppers. Inconsistent planning and pricing is sure to be a conversion killer and results in the likelihood you will have to pay a lot more to get those people back, if at all.

Surely some opportunities for more converged technologies in the areas to improve – It is believed the reluctance to exchange email addresses is the limiter on the emailed receipt not being available. Why not “react and recognise” when i walk into a store and pre-populate my details and remove this friction. There is room, I'm sure for real time pick and scan models for easier shopping – feel the product, see it, try it on, then tag the barcode and add to a virtual bag – collect at the check out and press pay on your phone. Utopian right?

Stat Alert

  • Mobile optimised sites are the norm 95% of Index retailers have this in place.

  • 63% of Index retailers offer iPhone app with 54.2% offering android.

Gift cards not being available to use online should be a criminal offence in my mind – thankfully this is not a problem in the US. Good job too, 60% of shoppers bought gift cards online that were all usable online too.

The online experience itself – the UI side of things

You know what, we do this well over here too, but not always consistently. Sometimes we show the data for the sake of showing the data – consider for a second how you capture a review on a product for a customer. Is it text only? Numbers? Star rating – when we sort for hotels or holidays, we search by the star rating. It therefore would make sense if we afforded our buyers this same, simple luxury would it not?

Stat Alert

The average checkout has 23 inputs (“solving the mobile conversion gap by Jason Goldberg, Razorfish. Presentation at the 2015 merchandising work shop (

We have not yet universally solved the friction existing in the basket, nor will we soon – payments are facilitating some of this, but robust views on stock are still limited and causing pain. The below numbers show the number of retailers offering the functionality below. Seems simple to solve does this pink elephant.

Marketing or as it is pronounced in South County Dublin (Ireland) Morkeshing

Well executed cross-channel marketing is imperative to help customers understand what offers retailers have for them. Email and loyalty MUST work at point of sale so as not to disappoint customers. The much maligned email should hold the highest value of your tricks in the stable – 53% of shoppers are likely to use an offer the receive on email and 54% (per UPS and comscore) are likely to avail of a free shipping offer. Accountants everywhere are now looking at the cost of goods sold lines here in the UK saying why are we giving this free as standard!

I’m a fan of email, in fact I love it. I like to know what I am entitled to. Maybe we should rebrand an email as the customer entitlement charter. Will it stick? This only works if you incentiveise customers to part with their information. You make kids sing carols for money, why not trade on your info – I know I do.

Simple and effective from Bloomingdales, sign me up and send my the Big Brown Bag – thank you very much.

It’s not that you can ship it now or ship it quick – you need to have the options.

A breakdown of the options across the retailers provides an interesting look at the landscape and also suggests complicity in how difficult reducing the cart abandonment can be.

The reality is the at retailers need to stay flexible. Customers will be difficult, challenging, change their mind and can be lazy in their thinking – make that decision, a non decision.

There are many gaps we need to bridge and I think, focusing on what the collective business can control and executing that with the customer in mind is key. Omni channel itself is a difficult, debatable topic and executed poorly in many cases. As George Harrison sang, it’s gonna take time, a whole lotta precious time.


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