Where Omnichannel Retailers Are Betting This Year

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Consumers demand a consistent and seamless shopping experience from retailers. To meet these demands, retailers are embracing omnichannel strategies—cross-channel capabilities, robust mobile app features, multiple fulfillment options and new customer service channels.

Becoming a true omnichannel retailer is arduous filled with financial and organizational challenges. Euromonitor International conducted an Industry Insights Survey in July 2018 of 525 retail professionals across 84 countries to understand what stage retailers are at in their omnichannel strategy and what capabilities they plan to invest in over the next 12 months.

Seamless channel integration

One of the first steps in the omnichannel process is to ensure consistency across the retailer’s physical and digital channels. About 50% of respondents said that they currently have uniform pricing and assortment across all channels. When Zara started its online operations in India in 2017, it guaranteed that inventory and pricing would be the same, both online and in stores—a unique stance in a country where discounts are readily available online.

In the near term, retailers plan on investing in two main capabilities for customers:  the ability to track orders placed online or in-store and the ability to access their profile online, in the store and in the app. This allows customers to be up-to-date on their activities across the channels in which they interact with the retailer.

A powerful mobile app

The smartphone is becoming a key part of the in-store shopping experience for customers, and retailers want to enhance the shopping experience with more robust app features.

The two main app features that retailers plan to offer in the next 12 months are the ability to scan product barcodes to look up product information and the ability to enable push notifications for in-store and online promotions. The aim is to co-op some of the most popular in-store mobile phone behaviors, which are searching for more product information, such as reviews, and searching for the best pricing. By offering these features in the mobile app, a retailer can keep consumers within its own ecosystem.

Faster delivery options

Consumer expectations continue to increase when it comes to fast and free shipping with large retail incumbents, such as Amazon and JD.com, or third-party delivery services, such as Instacart and Rappi, setting the bar. It’s no surprise that retailers intend to invest in speedier delivery options. Around 20% of respondents plan to invest in same-day and two-hour delivery in the next 12 months.

New customer service platforms

Customer service through email, call centers and social media are well-established channels as seen in Euromonitor International’s survey with approximately 70% of respondents offering all three.

Direct messaging on social media and email are the most popular ways for consumers to connect with beauty retailer, Glossier. The company receives a direct message on Instagram every 20 seconds.

Consumers expect the ability to reach a retailer at any time through any digital channel, much like they communicate in their professional and personal lives. As a result, retailers plan on investing in customer service through online chat, within their mobile app and even through product reviews in the next year.

There is no end point for being omnichannel

For many retailers, the omnichannel journey is just beginning with short-term investments aimed at catching up to others further along the path. But there is no final destination when it comes to being omnichannel. Retailers have plans for long-term investments, such as scan-and-go technology in their apps or video calls as a means of customer service. These are based on consumer behaviors and technologies that exist today. Both behaviors and technology will continue to evolve, and retailers must evolve with them or risk becoming irrelevant.