Value players are giving their more upmarket competitors a run for their money when it comes to the omnichannel customer experience they provide.

Department store retailers – particularly John Lewis and House of Fraser – are often held up as having a comprehensive omnichannel offer.

But how well do other multichannel retailers compare?

Practicology has just 30 non-grocery retailers on its omnichannel customer experience survey, focusing on how they support customer journeys that include more than one channel.

Matalan ranked 8th, while Next - which unveils full year results tomorrow - was in 19th place. What is the value retailer offering customers that’s driven it ahead of its more upmarket competitor?

Matalan’s merits

Matalan has thought about how people may use its website before a store visit - and aside from a simple store locator, the site also highlights items which are only available to buy online.

It has a multichannel loyalty scheme, and customers can download an app and use their phone instead of a reward card.

In store, a dedicated click-and-collect collection desk was signposted and manned.

Matalan also had other signage in store reminding customers about its website - and when we asked a staff member about an out-of-stock item, they helpfully told us it was available online. With free WiFi in store, we could have ordered ourselves, or had the staff member order the product for us.

The value retailer also produces much online content for consumers, and has made this content easy to shop with links to pages where products mentioned can be purchased.

Even customer service was top notch. Matalan’s customer services team replied to an email query within two hours (it took two days to receive a reply from Next). It also directs customers who want an immediate response to its Facebook page to use the Chat function.

What’s Next?

In comparison, Next’s in-store experience was not as seamless.

Signage at the door directed us to the first floor to pick up online orders, but then there was no dedicated collection desk, and no signage to show which till bank to collect orders from.

When we asked a member of staff about an out-of-stock item, the only option given was to order it from them for store delivery.

Its app does include a barcode scanner and catalogue to support store visits, but there was no free WiFi provided.

Aside from the slow email reply, the Live Chat function on Next’s site also wasn’t particularly helpful.

It took nearly 10 minutes for the customer services agent to respond, and kept closing as the session timed-out due to the agent’s slow response.

But while it ranked well below Matalan, Next does outperform in some areas.

It has a wider selection of delivery options than its lower priced competitor, including next-day delivery as standard.

Next also has an easy-to-find customer service phone number online, and on its mobile site the number is set to click-to-call, meaning customers don’t need to manually type the number into their phone’s dialler.

Overall, Next could learn plenty of lessons on how to treat today’s omnichannel shoppers from its value rival.