General merchandise stores rated top for omnichannel experience

General merchandise retailers have been rated as the top industry category for omnichannel experience, in a new European study by technology business IBM.

The research represented IBM's first European Omnichannel Capabilities Index report (OmCI), and retailers were assessed against 75 criteria across 13 categories to measure how well they performed in providing the basics of good customer experience, against the backdrop of an increasingly digitalised consumer market.

Whereas general merchandise and electronics retailers performed highly, with respective OmCI scores of 63% and 57%, furniture sellers achieved the lowest score with 36%.

Although some categories were commended, IBM noted that none of the 169 retailers were judged to have delivered a complete omnichannel experience.

According to the tech company, in a truly omnichannel world, the customer would receive personalised and consistent service from any brand touch-point including mobile, online, high street and social. The majority of shoppers now use technology in the shopping process, with some services like click & collect expected as standard, but IBM warned that the internal organisation of many companies has not caught up to deliver this seamless experience.

Martin Butler, head of retail for IBM UK & Ireland, who explained some of his retail technology predictions in a recent interview with Essential Retail, said: "A growing number of consumers expect retailers to offer a true omnichannel shopping experience.

"The shopping journey is now very different for certain product categories, such as electrical and fashion. We performed the benchmark to allow retailers to assess themselves against their competition – in order that they prioritise their investment in line with consumer demands."

The survey revealed that the most consistently delivered criterion, by retailers, is a universal price strategy across all channels, while the least consistently delivered variable is providing an eCommerce service in-store – for example check-in with a smartphone.

Countries with a high proportion of online sales achieved a higher average score, with the UK leading the way. Britain's top five retailers scored an average of 73% across all criteria, while Belgium rated lowest at 30%.

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IBM report ‘Authenticity and advantage in an omnichannel world’