Think of it as the omnichannel expectations gap.

Retailers and brands in four developed markets are having a hard time keeping pace with consumers’ growing expectations for seamless omnichannel shopping experiences.

A survey of 256 retailers and brands in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany, conducted by Forrester Consulting for Accenture and Hybris AG software found that nearly 19 out of 20 — 94 percent — of retail decision-makers felt their companies faced significant barriers to becoming integrated omnichannel operators, even though 46 percent said they already had a dedicated omnichannel team in place.


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The survey included online interviews with 1,503 omnichannel shoppers and pointed to significant rifts between what the consumers expected and what the businesses were able to provide.

For instance, exactly half of the consumers polled said they wanted to be able to pick up their orders in stores, but just 36 percent of the retailers offer in-store pickup.

Among the consumers, 47 percent said they use in-store pickup in their interaction with brick-and-mortar retailers to avoid online shipping costs, 25 percent so they can collect their orders on the day of purchase and 10 percent simply for convenience.

“As customers expect retailers to provide consistent and contextual service across every channel and interaction, retailers need to adopt new technologies that enable this critical transformation to omnichannel customer engagement and service,” said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Hybris. “This is going to be vital to meeting customers’ expectations and, frankly, survival for retailers.”

Seventy-one percent of the shoppers regard in-store stock level information as being critical to their purchase decisions, but less than a third of the retailers — 32 percent — are able to provide such specific information about their assortments online.

Nearly two in five consumers — 39 percent — say they are somewhat or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if they can’t get information about stock availability online.

Accustomed to being in charge, omnichannel consumers have high standards when they venture outside for merchandise. Forty-five percent said they are very likely and 29 percent somewhat likely to buy a product in the store and have it shipped to their home for free if a desired product isn’t in stock, while 27 percent are very likely and 35 percent somewhat likely to visit and buy from another retailer’s physical store when faced with an out-of-stock situation. The third most popular response when confronted with an out-of-stock scenario is to buy online from home later from the same retailer, with 23 percent very likely and 33 percent somewhat likely to take that approach.

“The research indicates that many retailers are operating with a false state of omnichannel comfort,” Walker said. “The reality is that the customer is way ahead of many retailers in defining what competitive shopping patterns are, not only across channels, but within each channel.”