Online and Offline Customer Experience Needs Better Integration

New research has uncovered a gap between customers' expectation of integrated sales channels and the offerings of retailers.

In today’s connected world many people will use a combination of channels when it comes to purchasing products and services, such as researching a product online and then walking into a bricks-and-mortar store to actually purchase it.

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However, while this is an increasingly common way for consumers to approach retailers in two recent studies around ‘seamless retailing’ in the US, Accenture has uncovered gaps between consumer expectations as they shop across a growing number of channels, and the ability of retailers to deliver what their customers really want.

On the consumer’s side, one of the biggest obstacles was the mobile experience, with only 42 per cent of those questioned answering that they find it easy to complete a purchase using a mobile device.

That mobile needs improvement was reinforced in the retailers’ research, as Accenture found that while all of the retailers assessed had mobile optimized websites, only 53 percent had optimized their websites for tablets.

And mobile isn’t only used away from the store as consumers said they would like to access services via their mobile phones while shopping in-store.

While 39 percent said that they would take advantage of the opportunity to earn loyalty points and save money on their purchases through in-store mobile phone offers and 45 percent would like to receive real-time promotions sent to their phones or tablet, only 28 percent of retailers currently have the capability to deliver that service.

After mobile, for 32 per cent of respondents the second biggest improvement retailers need to make in the consumer shopping experience is to enable the use of all three sales channels – physical store, online and mobile – in an integrated way.

Dave Richards, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice, said that physical and digital commerce are converging at an incredible pace.

He explained: "The fact that many consumers use their mobile devices to check inventory availability while on their way to a store and are looking for real-time promotions to be sent to their phones means retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on the power of these devices.

"By investing in mobile applications and frictionless digital payment tools that incorporate loyalty, coupons and rewards in-store, retailers can provide a seamless bridge between customers’ online and offline experiences.

"All sales channels must be equally desirable to the consumer, so that the path to purchase is not chosen based on satisfaction in one channel over another, but simply on what is most convenient at that time."

For more invaluable insight into retail and the growing importance of multi-channel, check out the Customer Experience Exchange for Retail. The exchange is an invitation-only forum, which brings together 60 C-level & VPs/Directors of Customer Experience, Marketing, eCommerce and Retail from Fortune 500 retailers. It takes place in London from 6 - 8 July 2015.