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Over half of large UK retailers are still struggling to connect the in-store and online shopping experience

While more than nine out of ten (92%) large multichannel retailers are now selling online in the UK, almost three-fifths (59%) consider a lack of visibility across channels to be the biggest challenge that they face today, according to a new study released today by RetailMeNot, operator of VoucherCodes.co.uk.

Connecting the in-store and online shopping experience remains a considerable problem for the majority of the UK’s largest multichannel retailers, with nearly two-fifths (38%) admitting that they struggle to offer consistent prices across multiple channels.

To understand how multichannel retailers are working to deliver a more consistent, omnichannel experience, RetailMeNot asked WBR Digital to interview 50 senior marketing executives at leading multichannel retailers across the UK.

Most UK retailers are integrating their in-store and online teams to deliver a more consistent experience, but most marketing budget continued to be siloed

RetailMeNot found that over two-fifths (42%) of UK retailers have restructured their business to bring together online and in-store teams, to ensure a more consistent experience for shoppers, while almost a third (30%) are currently transitioning to a combined retail team. A further 6% are considering combining their teams, while almost a quarter (22%) do not think it will be necessary.

Despite this, the research suggests that marketing budgets still tend to be siloed by channel. Three-fifths (61%) of UK retailers said that marketing budget is typically allocated by channel, between teams responsible for mobile, in-store and online programmes. However a growing number now assign marketing budget to a fully integrated retail team, with almost two-fifths (39%) adopting this approach for omnichannel marketing initiatives in the UK.

Retailers recognise that mobile and email can help to close the loop between in-store and online, and are ramping up digital investment in this area

RetailMeNot found that almost three-quarters (73%) of UK retailers plan to increase levels of digital investment across multiple channels and to drive online shoppers in-store in next 12-24 months, while 27% expect investment levels to remain stable.

Retailers appear to be focusing on mobile and email in particular to connect the in-store and online shopping experience. The research shows that 77% of leading UK multichannel retailers currently have initiatives in place to gather customer email addresses in-store and online, so that in-store and online sales can be linked together to provide a fuller picture of shopper behaviour and spending across multiple channels.

The majority of retailers are also turning to partners for assistance. RetailMeNot found that 71% of retailers are currently working on initiatives with third parties, such as unique vouchers and promotions, to gain greater visibility into the multichannel shopper experience. While a further 57% of retailers are starting to make greater use of mobile vouchers and promotions to encourage online customers to shop in-store.

Severine Philardeau, VP of Retail and Brand Solutions at VoucherCodes.co.uk, RetailMeNot, said: “As consumers increasingly expect a consistent experience across all channels, high street retailers simply cannot afford to stand still. Connecting the dots between online and in-store behaviour and sales is absolutely imperative, and holds the key to improving the shopper experience and maximising the effectiveness of investments in digital and mobile marketing and promotions.

“With three out of five large retailers still unable to link in-store sales to online activity, opportunities to drive sales and strengthen brand loyalty are undoubtedly being missed. To address this challenge and truly act like an omnichannel business, retailers should consider bringing together their in-store and online teams and calling on more of the expertise and support that partners can provide to connect the in-store and online shopping experience.”