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Omnichannel retail outshines online-only during pandemic

12 May 2020

A recent survey of Australian consumers by Manhattan Associates shows that as more shoppers head online during the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional omnichannel retailers are delivering a better online shopping experience than pure-play online-only retailers. 

Over 70% of those surveyed said that they have shopped online since COVID-19 restrictions came into place, and more than half said they are shopping online more than they did prior to the restrictions. 

Interestingly, 41% of respondents said they had a better experience shopping online with omnichannel retailers, while 31% said the experience was better with pure-play retailers. 

“While the common assumption is that pure-play retailers will create better online experiences for shoppers because that is their single focus, our research shows this is not always the case,” says Manhattan Associates managing director Raghav Sibal. 

“It is positive to see that while traditional omnichannel retailers are facing hardships due to reduced instore shopping or having to close their retail stores entirely during COVID-19, they are rising to the online shopping challenge and coming out on top. It’s likely this is the case because they own and control their entire inventory, and even if they don’t always have 100% visibility of the inventory, they can be confident it is in their own warehouse or stores. Whereas pure-play retailers don’t often have this luxury because they rely on third-party suppliers - many of which might be located offshore.”

While the research showed some positive feedback from consumers, it also highlighted there is still significant room for improvement, with all retailers falling short of consumer expectations in some key areas.

“While retail companies have invested a lot of time and money into their online platforms, the spike in activity caused by COVID-19 has highlighted areas for improvement. This research shows that retailers – both omnichannel and pure-play – have been caught off guard by this impossible-to-anticipate surge in online orders, and faced unnecessary bottlenecks and delays in their supply chain because they don’t have the systems in place that offer the necessary flexibility and scalability to rapidly respond,” adds Raghav. 

A major online shopping shortcoming highlighted by the consumer research was that 40% of omnichannel and 31% of pure-play online retailers had been out of stock of the items consumers wanted to purchase. 

Another frustration of online shoppers was slower than indicated shipping and delivery, with 28% of respondents saying this was the case for omnichannel and 29% for pure-play retailers. 

A further complaint was that 27% of omnichannel and 18% of pure-play retailers had a limited product range available online. 

“As eCommerce has continued to rise in popularity, retailers have put a lot of effort into competing to attract online shoppers. And due to COVID-19 many may have got what they wished for in attracting new online customers who had previously not shopped online with them,” says Raghav. 

“However, if retailers haven’t made investments in the supply chain that ensure a seamless shopping experience that reflects the experience shoppers previously had instore or online prior to COVID-19, it’s clear that consumer expectations won’t be met. And we know that when their expectations aren’t met, shoppers are unlikely to show loyalty and retailers risk losing sales and driving customers to rival businesses.”