Fashion retailers have multi-channel elements in place – but need to accelerate to omnichannel

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Omnichannel may be the buzzword du jour right now when it comes to retail – but like many of these here-today terms there is often more than a kernel of truth. Where omnichannel differs from multi-channel is through its threading. A multi-channel retailer may have distinct presences both in its website, on social media as well as its physical store – but omnichannel truly links them together for a seamless customer experience.

With this in mind, a new report from Veeqo has analysed more than 60 UK fashion retailers exploring their omnichannel strategies and experiences – from the big names of Boohoo, River Island and Superdry to more innovative startups.

Of these retailers analysed, more than a third (37%) were online only, while almost half (49%) had a dedicated mobile app and two in three (62%) had both a physical and online store. Three quarters of brands supported multi-device checkout. When it came to delivery, almost half (44%) offered click and collect services, with this number dropping to 35% for online-only brands.

With regards to customer support, three quarters of retailers offered phone support with almost a third (31%) having a live chat option on their site. More than three quarters (78%) of those who had a live chat option responded to a query within a minute.

Ultimately, the report argues that while there are reasons to be optimistic with this performance, much more can be done. Mobile apps are described as a ‘massive opportunity’ for fashion retailers – particularly as consumers can use them as platforms for discovery, as well as provide a better customer experience both for UX and payments.

One of the more surprising findings was that only 6% of fashion retailers analysed offered same day delivery. The report cited other research which found 80% of shoppers wanted same day shipping with the majority happy to pay more for the service. This was described by Veeqo as another ‘massive opportunity.’

Customer support can be seen as the glue which binds together the rest of the omnichannel experience. Veeqo cited an Aberdeen Group study which found companies which provided consistent service quality across all channels retained 89% of their customers, compared to 33% who didn’t. The report found those who had invested in live chat tended to get return on that investment, although email communication tended to be lacking.

Given Veeqo offers software which helps retailers sell and ship products across channels, then it does not come as much of a surprise that the report gives various areas for recommendation. Writing for MarketingTech last month James Baker, digital customer experience lead at Columbus, advocated a different approach.

“Rather than look to omnichannel, retailers need to start to think of a ‘unified commerce’ approach as their next logical step beyond omnichannel for their business – one that avoids major ‘rip and replace’ projects in favour of integrating and streamlining existing business systems and processes through the easy deployment of APIs and, if required, the cloud,” wrote Baker.

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