Top Five Omnichannel Challenges for 2014

“Omnichannel” became a retail buzzword in 2013, and for good reason. This past year saw retailers making a broad, concerted effort to provide the most accessible and personalized buyer experience for their customers. As a result, they increasingly ditched siloed business strategies, choosing instead to adopt and integrate multiple platforms to attract and engage consumers.

Creating a solid omnichannel strategy requires not only a careful understanding of big logistical challenges, but also a prudent eye to emerging technologies and opportunities. As our team looks ahead to 2014, here are the top five omnichannel challenges we foresee:

Become “Omnianalytical”: Retailers now have at their fingertips a massive trove of objective, quantifiable and scalable customer data. The challenge here is twofold. First, brands need to effectively acquire, manage and analyze the data. Once the analytics are secured, and once retailers determine which metrics are most relevant to their business model, they can begin to leverage the data in order to optimize their customers’ shopping experience. Each platform—smartphone, tablet, in-store, desktop—adds a new dimension to the puzzle, but it also adds a new opportunity to engage and entice customers.

Embrace showrooming: New showrooming trends are emerging. According to a new IBM study released at this week’s NRF convention, while the overall percentage of consumers showrooming increased slightly to eight percent in 2013, the amount that consumers are spending online as a result of showrooming has declined considerably—from 50 percent of online purchases in 2012 to 30 percent in 2013. On one hand, it’s likely that some consumers are simply choosing to go online first. But these numbers also highlight a determined effort by retailers to reduce the negative effects of showrooming through embracing e-commerce as an additional customer touchpoint.

Mobile, mobile, mobile: As we discussed in December, mobile commerce has taken off, and it’s very much here to stay. In December, our team attended a Harvard Business Review Webinar led by Mobile Future Institute CEO Chuck Martin, who further explained why retailers need to fully integrate mobile channels into their omnichannel strategies in order to stay competitive. Mobile, as he explained, blurs the line between in-store and online buying. It’s essentially able to engage and entice consumers at all times. Consumers therefore become untethered participants in the marketplace, and, as a result, the sale conversion funnel is poised to dramatically transform. The future market scope is impressive, and we think that results will continue to affirm the platform’s ROI.

Nimble logistics: With consumers now expecting to engage with brands across all channels at any time, antiquated, inflexible systems no longer suffice. Seamless omnichannel offerings require immediate transactions, finely-tuned order orchestration and fully-integrated systems that coordinate in-store and online inventories. The payoff can be big if retailers achieve these goals:  Nimble supply chain management throughout an enterprise means retailers can better forecast and respond to customer needs, as well as reduce costs.

Lock it down: With increasing digital footprints, the need to maintain secure platforms is crucial for all omnichannel retailers in the year ahead. Following significant cyber-security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, the issue is very much top of mind as a vulnerability that needs to be addressed. To protect themselves, retailers should be proactively investing in integrated systems that span their channels and decrease their exposure.

As you look forward to 2014, what omnichannel challenges do you perceive?