Why an omni-channel strategy is now crucial for UK retailers

Almost a third of major UK retailers are planning to install technology that enables in-store shoppers to order items from other branches.

With this news comes a warning from industry experts that those with an omni-channel retail strategy will take market share from those that don’t.

According to a survey conducted by retail specialists Martec International for Omnico, currently, just 13% of retailers have the technology that allows in-store customers to order goods from another branch that has the item available.

The research, which surveyed 31 UK retailers with more than 100 stores or two department stores, shows how retailers are increasingly planning to invest in omni-channel capabilities, recognising that they lack the technology required.

“Retailers are now coming up with firm plans to invest in an omni-channel retail strategy as they know they must do more to meet the increasingly high expectations of the digitally-savvy, mobile customer,” said Mel Taylor, CEO at Omnico.

“With the right solutions, retailers can give a significant boost to their sales, knowing that by being able to say ‘Yes’ more often they can guarantee they will never lose another sale due to unavailability.”

The survey also found that more than a quarter of retailers plan to allow customers to order online or from another of their stores while they are shopping in a branch.

Currently, 29% offer this facility. A further 13% plan to enable customers to order goods that are in transit or on order, with just the same percentage currently able to provide this.

“Those retailers who understand how to operate omni-channel and have the systems capable of supporting it can take market share from those that do not,” warned Taylor.

Earlier this year, retail experts urged shop owners not to give up on physical stores.

BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickson OBE, commented: “Customers don’t differentiate between buying online, on a mobile device or in-store and often combine two or more different channels when they shop. Therefore, as well as their significant investment in digital, retailers know they also need to continually improve their physical stores to ensure an ever changing and more exciting shopping experience.”

Terry Hunter, UK MD at Astound Commerce, added that physical and online-focused channels need to operate side-by-side without separation in order to deliver an overall consistent experience for consumers, which he believes will in turn positively impact the bottom line for retailers.

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