Digital technology has transformed the retail industry over the past decade. The rise of ecommerce is at the centre of these changes, presenting both a major opportunity and a threat for retailers. Retailers of all shapes and sizes now require an online presence to be successful, whether the retailer is a major high-street chain running a flagship ecommerce site or a small boutique hosting its store on an Amazon micro-site. With the internet effectively flattening the retail marketplace, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are being forced to reevaluate their core values and what they can offer the customer beyond an item and price.

Yet, there is clearly more disruption to come. MuleSoft’s 2017 Connectivity Benchmark Report showed that 89% of retailers expect their organisations to change more in the next five years than in the previous five, pointing to the ongoing need for retailers to meet the heightened expectations of digitally savvy customers through differentiation and innovation. Additionally, Ernst & Young expects that 70% of the UK’s biggest retailers will attempt to reinvent themselves for this new technology-powered omnichannel world, but as many as 40% will fail.

Challenges and opportunities

This high potential for failure might be an alarming prospect for some retailers. However, it also represents a fantastic opportunity for those who get omnichannel right by creating seamless, personalised customer experiences across channels. It’s a trend affecting not just the brick-and-mortar big hitters, but retailers of all sizes up and down the UK. After all, the advent of e-commerce levelled the playing field for smaller participants and forced behemoths to re-think their approach across web, mobile and physical stores.

Consumers now want a seamless journey that reflects the context of how they shop across devices and channels, whether that is merely browsing, seeking peer influence via social media or comparing prices for example. They want the retailer to know them and to personalise their experiences along the way. And shoppers want their experiences to be as pleasant and hassle-free as possible. Anything less and they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of British consumers polled by Barclaycard recently claimed they’d abandoned a clothing purchase due to frustrations with the in-store experience.

The card giant argued that click and collect capabilities could help to alleviate these sorts of pain points. In fact, 42% of consumers said it was a deciding factor in whether to make a purchase. Other consumer requests to speed up and improve retail services included: in-store touchscreens to check stock availability (30%); digital changing rooms to try on items via virtual reality headsets (30%); and apps to scan and pay for items without having to visit the checkout (19%). These consumer requests are at the cutting edge of omnichannel.

For the retailers that get…