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A new study by SIX Payment Services and ibi research looks at how merchants want to meet the needs of their customers without losing sight of operational efficiency.

Today’s consumers want to be able to make purchases at anytime, anywhere and anyhow. A third of the merchants have already been present in more than one channel.  But it is not enough to establish autonomous and unconnected e-commerce and in-store channels – this approach is likely to result in a fragmented customer experience which in turn can lead to a reduction in sales.

While e-commerce continues to grow at the expense of in-store business, it is vital to embrace the retail environment of the future and create a unique, smooth and brand-defining customer experience that encourages customers to return – no matter what channel they chose to interact with.

What do merchants see as important and where would they rather wait?

SIX Payment Services, together with ibi research at the University of Regensburg interviewed almost 300 merchants in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the subject of Omni-Channel. This is one of their very few studies that provide a valuable insight into the needs and the problems faced by the largely German DACH speaking region.

The study shows that around a third of respondents already have a presence in more than one channel. Of the 40% of respondents who have only one physical store, half are planning to expand their business to e-commerce.

A considerable proportion of respondents (40%) have indicated that they already use Omni-Channel practices. More than 1 in 10 (11%) said they are focusing on developing an Omni-Channel experience for their customers, and 32% are planning to invest in this area in the next three years. The results confirm that Omni-Channel is very much front of mind amongst merchants. Merchants also see Omni-Channel as an additional source of income with 50% of respondents expecting higher sales as a result of a successful Omni-Channel implementation programme.

Even though Omni-Channel is a holistic concept, including all aspects of the business and an eternal variety of customer experiences, the concept is often discussed in terms of specific use cases, which are known to, and requested by, the consumers and the merchants, such as Click & Collect, Click & Return, Endless Aisle and Queue-Busting. When questioned about which aspects of Omni-Channel carry the most importance, the results were clear.  Click & Collect came top of the list, with 35% of respondents citing its value, followed by Click & Return at 24%, then Queue-Busting at 17% and finally Endless Aisle with 7%.  It was also indicated that cross-channel consistency is important; with 23% of respondents agreeing that acceptance of mobile payment methods was a priority.

Almost half (47%) of SIX Payment Services’ largest retail customers are already on the Omni-Channel route and have been using SIX Payment Services to homogenise their online and in-store business.

In order to fulfill customer needs and screen the market, a solid first step could be to implement a good cross-channel solution, meaning that certain processes are still manual. Quite a few large retail brands are still working that way – covering the user experience of their customers without being set-up in a fully integrated efficient and future-proof manner.

“In order for an Omni-Channel solution to be long-term and sustainable, it is of the utmost importance that it is based on fully integrated, seamless, real-time technology that extends across all business processes and functions such as stock management, CRM, ERP, Webshop, ECR and payment solutions” said Roger Niederer, Head Merchant Services at SIX Payment Services, where such solutions are currently launched.

The study is available for download in German language:

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