Why Your Omnichannel Experience Is Falling Short (And What To Do About It)


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Before you can master the omnichannel experience, you need to measure it the right way. But many retailers aren’t. They’re relying on lagging indicators, like point-of-sale data and customer complaints, to gauge their performance.

This is no way to delight customers or distinguish brands!

It’s time to get out in front of this—to get definitive answers to these questions:

  • What is our typical customer experiencing across channels?
  • Are employees executing properly?
  • Is everything working as expected?
  • Are we making it easy?

There’s only one way to fully and accurately assess your omnichannel experience: You must map it and mystery shop it from start to finish.

Groundbreaking Study Reveals Sizable Gaps in the Omnichannel Experience

Last year, we partnered with StellaService to study the omnichannel experience of 25 leading retailers—including Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Apple, Gap, and Macy’s—in five different markets. The Omni-Returns Experience Report, which details our findings, lays bare some common deficiencies that underscore the need for proactive measurement, strategy, and planning.

For the study, we directed mystery shoppers to order an item online and have it shipped to them. We studied brand communications, including confirmation and shipping information, and evaluated the packaging and product condition upon receipt. Shoppers then returned the product to the brand’s local store and evaluated the returns process: Was the return point easy to find? Could returns be made at any register? How was the transaction handled?

Here are just a few of our findings:

  • Retailers missed the opportunity to save the sale or upsell 87% of the time.
  • Among retailers offering buy online, return in store (BORIS), 40% did not consistently make the option clear to shoppers in packaging.
  • On average, shoppers took over a minute to locate the in-store return area.
  • Associates did not pass StellaService’s quality evaluations during 22% of in-store experiences.

If the leading brands we studied are lacking in these areas, it stands to reason they may be underperforming when it comes to curbside pickup (aka BOPIS, or click and collect). It’s also a safe bet that most other retailers would see the same results (or worse) on similar brand tests.

Omnichannel Mystery Shopping: The Future of CX Management

As the results of this study make clear, it’s dangerous to take for granted all the “givens” along the customer journey. For curbside pickup, it might not be obvious to customers where to collect their online purchases, or they might have to wait till their items are located. Returning online purchases in store might be painfully confusing or awkward. Employees might be ignoring opportunities to build sales and delight customers.

From a competitive standpoint, you can’t afford the uncertainty.

This is where mystery shopping comes in—beautifully. It’s not just for evaluating single channels (in-store purchases, online transactions, or customer service calls). It can be mapped to your typical customer journey, so you can objectively measure the omnichannel purchase process in its entirety—reflecting to a T the way today’s consumers shop.

Omnichannel mystery shopping isn’t just for CX strategy. It’s also a tool we use to ensure legal compliance. For one of our clients, a major grocery and home goods retailer, we do in-store alcohol and tobacco compliance testing. (Are customers carded? Are sales allowed?)

This retailer also offers curbside pickup service, which includes alcohol sales, at several stores. Mystery shopping helps ensure the carding process takes place curbside as well. It’s a true investment in compliance, versus a “nice to know we’re doing things correctly.”

There’s an Opening Here for Serious Retailers

To distinguish your brand among omnichannel shoppers (a vast and growing majority), you must map the different ways your customers can make a purchase and measure those experiences with precision. Since most retailers continue to measure the omnichannel experience in piecemeal fashion, channel by channel, measuring the entire customer journey will give you a significant advantage.

What’s your take on the omnichannel experience? What’s been your brand’s biggest breakthrough or challenge? What other customer experience topics are on your mind? Please let us know in the comments below. Or feel free to contact me directly.

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This article was originally posted to our blog where you can find more posts like this at ICC/Decision Services Blog.

Kevin Leifer
Kevin and his team at StellaService help their clients build solutions that optimize front-line team performance and improve customer experiences across contact centers and stores.


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