Which retailer does omnichannel best? While brands in the Specialty Retail, Department Stores, and Big Box studies have made advancements in omnichannel, no clear leader has emerged. Walmart promotes free shipping of online orders if shoppers pick them up at the store. Macy’s and Best Buy ship from the nearest store to cut delivery times and shipping costs. Gap and Banana Republic allow consumers to reserve items online and buy in-store. Yet, no retailer has adopted all of the pillars of an omnichannel strategy and emerged as a leader. And despite omnichannel becoming a buzzword, two-thirds of retailers are more than a year away from fully merging their online and in-store order management systems.
SKUs are often the barrier to full omnichannel adoption. Merging online and offline SKUs is difficult, as is incentivizing employees to set aside inventory for online purchases. Hurdles are revealed as brands experiment with new omnichannel best practices. For example, Walgreens and Staples gave consumers the choice of reserving an item online and buying it in-store, or buying it online and picking up at the store in 2014. In 2015, both retailers took away the option of reserving in-store without paying online, highlighting the challenges of setting aside inventory without a guarantee of sale.
However, the challenges do not mean brands should abandon all omnichannel experimentation. Driving online browsers to the store is especially important, as 72% of shoppers say the in-store experience is the most important factor in their purchase decision. Furthermore, enabling consumers to buy online, pick-up, and return in-store has proven to have a positive overall effect on sales.
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