Almost 70% of of CEOs in the world’s leading 350 retailers are investing in digital technology to improve customer service – and much of this investment is being targeted at delivery and returns, according to a new report “CEO Viewpoint 2017: The Transformation of Retail” prepared for JDA Software, by PwC.
Despite the obvious importance of having a digital transformation strategy in place, surprisingly, more than half (52%) of respondents (47% in the UK) have not yet defined or started implementing a digital transformation strategy. This reflects the fact that many retailers still have work to do in terms of fitting the strategy piece into the digital transformation puzzle.
“The investment in digital technologies was a major undercurrent within this year’s survey results. This is no surprise, since retail CEOs understand just how important it is to invest in the technology that will improve the customer experience, particularly in store. However, when you consider the amount of time and money global retailers are set to spend on digital technology,” says Lee Gill, group vice president, global retail strategy, JDA. “The report findings also reveal the continued balancing act retailers are struggling to maintain with ensuring omni-channel excellence and profitability – all while meeting the demands of the modern shopper and keeping pace with the digital transformation underway across the supply chain.”
Omni-channel profitability remains a challenge
As omni-channel retailing continues to mature, and retailers have blurred the lines between online and store, their attention has shifted to implementation and profitability. Among global retailers, omni-channel continues to lag in areas of order fulfillment and profitability is still a challenge, with only 10% of those surveyed able to make a profit while fulfilling omni-channel demand; this figure falls to just three% for the UK market.
Only 12% of CEOs surveyed, down from 19% in 2014, provide a seamless shopping experience across channels. These retailers are finding their omni-channel offerings to be too complex or expensive and are choosing to scale back.
Returns impacting on profitability, click & collect on the march
Seventy four per cent of respondents believe the cost of customer returns is impacting profits to at least some extent, a figure that rises to 85% for the UK. As CEOs look to regain profitability, their chosen areas for order fulfillment investment are prioritised by those that are the most important and net the most financial return.
However, many are yet to perfect the fulfillment part of the supply chain picture. Stock-outs proved a particular concern for UK retailers, with more than a third (37%) stating that when it comes to supply chain issues, this was their number one concern.
The survey found that retail CEOs are increasing their investment in Click & Collect; 51% either offer or plan to offer it in the next 12 months – up from 47% in 2016. ‘Buy online, ship to store’ has picked up steam in the past year, with 48% of retail CEOs investing in this service or planning to, in the next 12 months. Conversely, fulfillment options that are becoming costlier and less profitable are areas where CEOs are decreasing investments in 2017. These include same day delivery, which was 43% (35% in the UK) last year, but is just 33% (28% for the UK) this year, and specific delivery slots, which were 48% (51% in the UK) last year, but are just 27% (25% in the UK) this year.
The rising costs involved in fulfilling orders is also pushing executives to rethink their overall strategy. 2017 will see increased charges for online orders; 57% plan to or will make this change in the next 12 months, up from 29% last year. There will also be a rise in minimum order thresholds for free standard home delivery (62% plan to or will make this change in the next 12 months), which is up from 39% last year. Raising the minimum order value for Click & Collect (55% plan to or will make this change in the next 12 months), is also more likely than last year, when just 31% said they would take this approach.
“While retailers have increased fulfillment options over the last year to meet consumer demands, as Click & Collect becomes a staple and ‘buy online, ship to store’ emerges as another fulfillment capability, retailers now need to balance the effectiveness and profitability of the fulfilment channels they offer with customer satisfaction. Because if shoppers experience a problem with home delivery or in store pickups, that is a lost sale – and customer – that retailers can’t afford in a highly competitive market,” noted Gill.
“We have witnessed unprecedented change sweeping the retail industry that continues in earnest as retailers reimagine their strategies to transform the customer experience, making it seamless and personalised, no matter how they shop. Supply chain complexities and cost will continue to challenge retailers, and the difference between winners and non-winners will be how much, or how little, retailers understand their customers moving forward,” concluded Gill.