Europe’s retailers turn to omni-channel

Merchants in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are turning to omni-channel – a form of multi-channel retailing that emphasises excellent customer experience – according to a study by SIX Payment Services.

The Zurich, Switzerland-based card processing specialist and ibi research at Germany’s University of Regensburg interviewed nearly 300 merchants in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the subject of omni-channel and how they meet the increasing demands of consumers while maintaining operational efficiency.

“Today’s consumers want to be able to make purchases at anytime, anywhere and anyhow,” the company notes. “But it is not enough to establish autonomous and unconnected e-commerce and in-store channels – this approach is likely to result in a fragmented customer experience which in turn can lead to a reduction in sales.

“While e-commerce continues to grow at the expense of in-store business, it is vital to embrace the retail environment of the future and create a unique, smooth and brand-defining customer experience that encourages customers to return – no matter what channel they chose to interact with.”

The study found that 40% of respondents say they already use omni-channel practices, while 11% are still developing an omni-channel experience for their customers and 32% plan to invest in this area over the next three years. Of the 40% of respondents with only one traditional bricks-and-mortar store, half plan to expand their business to include electronic commerce (e-commerce).

Merchants also regard omni-channel as an extra source of income with 50% of respondents expecting higher sales to result from a successful omni-channel implementation programme.

SIX comments that omni-channel is a holistic concept, including all aspects of the business and a wide variety of customer experiences. However, the concept is typically discussed in terms of specific use cases, familiar to consumers and merchants, such as click & collect; click & return; endless aisle and queue-busting.

Asked which aspect of omni-channel they consider most import, click & collect came top with 35% of respondents citing its value, followed by click & return (24%), queue-busting (17%) and endless aisle (7%). Cross-channel consistency was also seen as important: 23% of respondents agreed that acceptance of mobile payment methods was a priority.

SIX adds that 47% of its largest retail clients have already moved into omni-channel to meet their customers’ demands. As “a solid first step” in implementing a good cross-channel solution, it suggests that certain processes continue to be manual. “Quite a few large retail brands are still working that way – covering the user experience of their customers without being set-up in a fully integrated efficient and future-proof manner,” the group observes.

“In order for an omni-channel solution to be long-term and sustainable, it is of the utmost importance that it is based on fully integrated, seamless, real-time technology that extends across all business processes and functions such as stock management, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), Webshop, efficient consumer response (ECR) and payment solutions” said Roger Niederer, SIX’s head of merchant services.

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Tags: Europe | technology