Retailers Are Lagging in Omnichannel Features

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Consumers expect an omnichannel shopping experience with seamless and cohesive touch points across all of a retailer’s online and in-store channels. Online sales are expected to grow between 8 and 12 percent this year, according to the NRF, and digital continues to be instrumental in shaping in-store sales strategies.

Each year, the National Retail Foundation and FitForCommerce releases the Omnichannel Retail Index, which examines how 120 retailers across multiple categories are performing in this arena. The report found that while companies continue to optimize their omnichannel capabilities, there’s still a ton of room for improvement.

Most retailers are adopting digital features and omnichannel strategies that provide better service. For example, 98 percent of retailers in the index offer a variety of ways to contact customer service and 54 percent offer live chat options.

At the same time, many are cutting back on favorite customer perks like free return shipping, and are lagging on more complicated omnichannel capabilities that incorporate digital and in-person features.

In fact, the top retailer (the report doesn’t name specific businesses) only received a rating of 76 percent, showing that even the best-performing companies have work to do. The average indexed business has adopted just over half (55 percent) of the key components that make for a successful omnichannel strategy.

As shopping habits become more and more sophisticated, integrating a robust omnichannel strategy will become critical to staying relevant and attractive to consumers. The sky’s the limit here — you can do anything from lavish in-store experiences and sophisticated social media integrations to marketing on the Internet of Things. But a prerequisite to any of that is nailing down the basics.

Here some omnichannel building blocks as defined by the Omnichannel Retail Index:

Cross-channel gift cards

Physical gift cards should work online and virtual gift cards should work in the store. This is one of the areas retailers are actively investing in — 81 percent of the report’s indexed businesses offer cross-channel gift cards.

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Buy online, return in store

Returning items via mail can be a hassle for customers. That’s why it’s important to also offer the convenience of returning online purchases in stores. Seventy-five percent of the indexed retailers already do this.

Loyalty programs

Loyalty programs are one of the most effective ways to get more repeat customers (who, as we’ve noted, are critical to your bottom line). But only half of the indexed businesses offer them. It’s easy to start a digital rewards program for your business with Square Loyalty, which integrates with your Square point of sale.

Buy online, pick up in store

Only 20 percent of the indexed retailers allow shoppers to search in-store availability online. However, 70 percent of store associates at those businesses consistently offer to look up items at other store locations or online. Integrating this capability not only serves a customer need, it also helps you run your business more efficiently.

Emailed receipts

Given that everything is moving to digital, it’s surprising that only 20 percent of indexed retailers have integrated digital receipt technology. Paper receipts are harder for customers to keep track of, not to mention a massive waste of paper. Email receipts are a lot more searchable should someone need to return an item or locate it for their records.

They’re also a great way to further engage with customers. Square’s digital receipts include a place to add your social media accounts, as well as a way for people to leave you feedback, offering more digital touch points to round out the in-store experience.

Once you’ve set this omnichannel groundwork, it’s time to take things up a notch. Doing so is a key competitive advantage — and it sets you apart from retailers who are still lagging behind. Here are some ideas about how to take your omnichannel strategy to the next level.

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