Customers are channel blind, favouring a consistent brand experience above all else, so why are retailers pretending otherwise?

After a decade of omnichannel retailing, it should not be news to retailers that customers buy from a brand, not a channel.

And yet, channel-specific policies persist; policies that not only undermine the quality of the customer experience but actively jeopardise brand perception.

How, for example, can any retailer justify an ‘online only’ price when it also has bricks-and-mortar stores?

Generously offering to ‘price match’ one’s own website is a clear example of the way omnichannel retail strategies are damaging customer perception and experience.

“Retailers persisting with fragmented, omnichannel strategies are damaging consumer experiences and undermining retail respect”

While the retail strategy may appear to be ‘customer first’, the customer experience is completely at odds with this pledge.

Enticing customers with an online-only price promise doesn’t simply drive customers away from the store, it prompts them to price compare with the competition.

Retailers persisting with fragmented, omnichannel strategies are damaging consumer experiences, undermining retail respect and actively encouraging consumer behaviours – from discount-only buying to frequent returns – that are destroying retail profitability.

So what is the answer?

Retailers need to reflect the customer desire for a consistent brand experience irrespective of channel.

By creating real-time visibility across the entire network, retailers don’t need to see their channels as separate entities, but instead one joined-up and seamless brand experience.

With complete and up-to-date insight into the location of every piece of inventory – from store to warehouse, even in transit – retailers can ensure the divide between channels is breached and avoid that dangerous omnichannel fragmentation.

Combining this inventory accuracy with effective order management also ensures the customer can gain access to the product irrespective of location – whether purchased online, in store or ordered by a store associate for home delivery.

“Retailers need to reflect the customer desire for a consistent brand experience irrespective of channel”

In addition, this single source of information provides an essential platform for understanding the complete cost of retail sale – rather than the channel specific costs that can be both inaccurate and misleading.

With this transparency and deep insight, retailers can fine-tune the overall offer to match both customer behaviour and expectation, at the same time as ensuring every sales transaction is a profitable one.

Customers may behave in an omnichannel fashion – checking prices via a mobile while standing in store, for example, but they don’t think about channels and they certainly don’t think about omnichannel.

Retailers need to reflect and support this customer sentiment: success is not about giving customers a strong omnichannel experience; it is about giving customers a good retail experience, every time.

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Craig Summers is UK managing director at Manhattan Associates