By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Report examines how retailers are responding to the pressure for omnichannel options.
Researchers have dubbed the new pressure for omnichannel shopping options “the Amazon Effect,” in which consumers expect to be able to browse, buy, and return items through traditional and online stores, mobile apps, and call centers. Researchers from Auburn University’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation (CSCI) investigated how retailers are responding to this new reality in the sixth annual “State of the Retail Supply Chain” report, which draws on survey data and interviews with top executives.
“The pressure for omnichannel is constant,” explained CSCI Executive Director Brian Gibson, one of the study authors. “You can’t have a conversation with a retail executive today without it coming back to the omnichannel topic – how you’re trying to monetize it and make it profitable.”
And 2015 was a mixed bag for retailers; while fewer transportation bottlenecks improved inventory availability and the economy seemed to be improving, retail sales rose just 2.1 percent, the weakest since 2009. Meanwhile, online retailing spiked, and Amazon captured 51 cents of every additional dollar spent online during 2015. E-commerce saw huge influxes of investment by retailers to try to combat this “Amazon Effect.”
Ultimately, customers are becoming more demanding, and retailers are fighting to respond to those demands. Gibson explained that the customer attitude is, “I want to buy it wherever I want, whenever I want it, and have it delivered however I want. And, in some cases, I want to be able to return it to wherever I think is most convenient.”
These new pressures are leading retailers to rethink their overall strategies. As one retail executive stated, “We don’t really think about e-commerce and commerce. We just think about commerce.”