It takes effort to craft the ideal omnichannel experience. Retailers need to go beyond just ticking the boxes of online, in-store and mobile commerce platforms.
While it’s vital to be able to sell to customers in all channels, it’s not enough to just be present. Omnichannel fashion is only good when it engages consumers in a meaningful way.
In a 2017 study of 97 retailers, L2 Research (now Gartner) found that only five were able to implement a true omnichannel strategy by offering consumers an integrated, seamless shopping experience through a strong online shopping experience and an easy path to their retail stores.
Of that five, only one fashion retailer made the grade. It shows the fashion industry lags in omnichannel maturity. Multichannel fashion retailers seeking to capture and retain market share can expect continual challenges.
Increased channels means increased choice, leaving consumers with a deluge of retail products, channels and payment options to pick from, based on their preferences. Using this new ability to reach consumers at any time or place has unleashed exponential growth in sales volumes for digitally innovative omnichannel pioneers.
However, many others still grapple with the constant challenge of maintaining competitiveness in this new omnichannel landscape.
Common Omnichannel Pitfalls
Without the omnichannel basics in place, it’s almost impossible to craft sophisticated, seamless consumer experiences. Without those experiences, fashion retailers will always struggle to keep pace with the competition. Some of the most common failures in omnichannel strategy that we have seen include:
1. Failure to integrate sales channels
Among the most common missteps for fashion retailers is a failure to integrate their sales channels into a single vertically integrated omnichannel platform. Instead, they treat each channel as a separate silo.
This forces brands to manage three separate systems, each with their own supply chain and inventory allocation processes. Since each channel is designed in isolation from each other, they’re unable to easily communicate with each other. Brands are forced to develop specialized software to achieve visibility and control over processes across channels.
2. Failure to manage out-of-stocks and share inventory visibility
One of the most frustrating experiences for fashion consumer is when they are told that they can purchase a particular product in a given channel, only to find that it’s out of stock.
For example, a customer finds a product online and visits the store to buy it. Once there, they find out the product was available online but not in the store.
Each out-of-stock incident is a lost opportunity for a fashion brand, not just lost revenue, but a possible loss of a customer at a time where brand loyalty is a fashion retailer’s most valuable currency.
3. Failure to engage omnichannel customers
Brands that try to slap on an omnichannel label onto a basic multichannel strategy don’t gain any significant competitive advantage. Omni-channel consumers need seamless, consistent experiences across online, in-store, and mobile channels. Retailers able to treat all three sales channels as a complete whole will be successful.
Preparing for Growing Demands and Challenges
The increasing ubiquity of omnichannel strategies in fashion retail is forcing brands to adapt.
However, the field is still populated by brands that claim to offer a complete omnichannel strategy but fail to deliver. This represents a major opportunity for growth by brands that are willing to commit themselves to digital innovation.
Brands must develop true omnichannel experiences. In order to succeed, fashion retailers must:
- Completely integrate sales channels, and supply chains
- Develop real-time visibility into inventory across the supply chain
- Respond to inventory out-of-stock by redirecting inventories to other channels
- Provide consumers with real-time updates on availability of a given product
- Create a deeper understanding of individual consumer preferences
- Allow store associates to reserve or hold merchandise at other store locations for in-store consumers
- Enable consumers to buy and/or return products at any location, through any sales channel
While it’s difficult to predict what the future holds for brands, a few things are clear. Technology-driven innovation is becoming the norm in fashion retail and with good reason.
Omnichannnel strategies have the potential to redefine the shopping experience and there are big opportunities for those who get the basics right.