Two thirds of retailers now operate four or more customer touch points, survey reveals

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A recent retailer survey from eDigitalResearch and Portaltech Reply, the Reply company that specialises in e-commerce implementation and multi-channel consulting services, has revealed channel integration is proving increasingly difficult as more and more retailers turn multi-channel in an effort to engage with their customers, appeal to a wider audience and increase their revenues. Just one third (34%) of the retailers surveyed felt their current customer touch points were well integrated, compared to 48% who said the same just two years earlier. The figure contrasts with the current market context, where 63% of retailers operate across four or more customer touch points, up 20% compared to the year before.

The results reveal existing technology systems are the key barrier to a coherent and innovative multi-channel customer experience, with almost two thirds (65%) of retailers stating that their current technology systems make creating a seamless multichannel customer experience challenging.

Worryingly, as retailers increasingly open up more and more channels to their customers, understanding of multichannel customer behaviour is falling. Half (50%) of those surveyed said they were either ‘not aware’ or ‘not aware at all’ of how many visits a customer makes across their channels before making a purchase decision. By not understanding the customer journey, retailers are likely to find it increasingly difficult to improve their overall customer experience and put themselves ahead of their competition.

The survey, now in its third year, found that retailers expect their digital channels to generate more and more customer visits over the coming two years as the popularity of smartphones, tablets, smart televisions and now smart watches continue to grow in popularity with consumers. It is no surprise then that over one third (34%) of retailers feel that their websites require the most support to improve the customer experience, followed by their stores (29%) and mobile channels (17%). Almost half (48%) of those surveyed are also prioritising digital integration to their established store presence to help improve their overall multichannel customer experience, as well as generate more revenue from an increase in the number of purchases.

Riccardo Lodigiani, CEO of Reply in the UK, said: “Retailers need one view of customers, products and inventory, whether they’ve purchased in-store or browsed online. Customers want an integrated retail experience across all channels. This research demonstrates that there are too few retailers closing the ever-widening gap between online and offline channels, meaning they are losing touch with their customers and falling behind on market share. Creating a consistent experience across physical and digital touch points is essential to really putting the customer at the heart of the business. Retailers must make this a priority for 2014.”

Derek Eccleston, commercial director at eDigitalResearch, said: “Whilst the majority of retailers that we surveyed felt like they didn’t have a good understanding of their own customer’s purchase journeys, they did believe that they had a solid understanding of changing consumer behaviour. They’ve come to recognise what is expected of them from multichannel customers. With that in mind, brands and businesses are increasingly putting the overall customer experience at the heart of what they do to help them stand head and shoulders above their competition. Partners and suppliers therefore need to be developing solutions and systems that work seamlessly with existing technology across channels to help retailers provide shoppers with the kind of experience that will breed loyalty, repeat purchases and offer a real return on investment.”