In the retail world, it's always tricky to second-guess what customers want and it's impossible to please everyone, all the time.
The old adage that the ‘customer is always right’ seems to be falling on deaf ears as a discrepancy has appeared between what the consumer and retailer thinks. And it could have a serious impact on retailer survival.
Retail history is littered with the downfall of iconic companies whose lofty brand heritage wasn't enough to keep customers satisfied.
The demise of BHS grabbed the headlines last year. But over the past decade, let's not forget pick-and-mix emporium Woolworths, VHS favourite Blockbuster and the wine shop Threshers. Once upon a time, a visit to all three was enough to guarantee Saturday night bliss.
Medium and large retail businesses failures in the UK affected 1,504 stores in 2016 and has already surpassed the 1,000 barrier in the six months of this year. 
So who’s right?
On a global level, worrying trends are emerging - put simply, a big gap has appeared between what retailers like and what shoppers want. While online shopping and social media continue to boom, it seems that many brands are out of step.
Recent research shows that large retailers viewed their in-store experience as their premium channel not their websites. Internet Retailing also reported findings that 21% of retailers still didn't offer the ability to purchase online or in app, while 47% were unable to allow their customers to buy through social media
What’s more 37% of brands globally provided either a poor mobile shopping experience or no mobile offering at all.
Shopping via social media channels grew massively in 2016, up from USD 30 billion to USD 50 billion. And yet, social media responsiveness remains a big challenge, as 18% of brands either didn't respond to customer inquiries posed via social media or took more than 48 hours.
Perhaps more concerning was the fact that customers expected issues to be resolved quickly and correctly, but 61% of retailers failed to provide online chat options.
Getting it right, everywhere
If the history of retail in recent times tells us anything, it's that no brand can ever rest on its laurels and imagine that its past glories and its bricks-and-mortar presence will keep customers coming back for more.
The IBM report makes some telling deductions: 'Consumers do not recognise channels; they only see the brand. An inconsistent, frustrating experience could cause customers to shop elsewhere, resulting in significant declines in sales and profits.'
Today consumers determine the channel they’ll use to engage with a business and not vice versa. They’ll also expect to be able to seamlessly change channel at any point during their journey.
So, it makes sense that only an Omnichannel retail strategy can really ensure that all bases are covered. That way, you're always ahead of any changing fashion, allowing shopping to shift between channels with ease.
The reward for getting it right should not be under-estimated. The IBM report delivers a stand-out statistic: Omnichannel shoppers spend between 50-300% more than single channel shoppers.
There’s no time to waste in muddling through here. Embracing Omnichannel will undoubtedly bring rewards so you need to get it right and that means understanding the difference between Multi-Channel and Omnichannel.
Discover more by downloading your free copy of our essential guide to Omnichannel Engagement and find out the difference between the two and what getting it right will do for your business and customers.
If you'd like to talk more about this or other issues relating to Omnichannel engagement why not get in touch.
(1) Who's Gone Bust in Retailing? (June 2017) Centre for Retail Research
(2) Internet Retailing, May 16, 2017
> IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index Study
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