As digitalization has gained an important role in everyday life, it comes as no surprise that trends suggest that a large portion of buyers performs research online before making a purchase offline, a phenomenon better known as ROPO. As such, websites often represent the first touch-point with clients and become a medium to show-off all the services that brands proudly offer, among these account also cross-channel services.
Cross-Channel Services towards an Integrated Shopping Experience
In an attempt to unite the online and offline worlds brands are increasingly offering a wide variety of cross-channel services. In other words, clients have more options than only going to the store hoping to spot the item identified online. First of all, brands can propose online many services which take place offline: it might be possible for example to locate a selected item in a store nearby, or order it online and later pick it up in store, or simply book and appointment in store with a sales assistant. Also, clients might return or exchange items in store after having received them via mail. We argue that cross-channel services might act as e-commerce enablers and therefore play a crucial role in the rise of online sales.
Cross-Channel services’ State of the Art
In our latest Digital Competitive Map 2017, we have tracked the performances on cross-channel services for a panel of 32 Fashion and Luxury brands and compared the results to the previous year.
Our findings reveal that brands have definitely reinforced cross-channel services over the last year, in particular Hugo Boss is the best performing brand of the panel. All in all, however, room for improvement is still significant.
“In-store Availability” with its four new additions in 2016 compared to 2015 is the best performing area: it is however still far from full potential reaching only 37% (11 brands out of 30). “Return to Store” and “Product Exchange In-store” appear to be the most prominent services landing on 57% and 53% of their maximum scores, however in 2016 we register just a few additions. Surprisingly, we find that the “Collect In-Store” feature is still under-represented and scores only 10 brands out of 30.
Cross-Channel services are a persisting challenge
All in all our research reveals that enhancements are slow to implement. As reasonable as cross-channel services might sound, the actual implementation constitutes a major challenge for brands, especially on the operations side. Often, the online and offline worlds seem to be very distant. Indeed, clients can sense it online, where they will find very little reference to stores, and in stores where they will see no reference to the online store. In our report Digital and Physical Integration: Luxury Retail’s Holy Grail we highlighted how Luxury brands can learn from Department Stores (e.g. Macy’s, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys), which are on average performing better than mono-brands in offline-online integration.
Hopefully in the near future Fashion and Luxury brands will embrace the integration journey. Maybe also additional cross-channel options will be available: for example the opportunity to create online a list of items to try in store.