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Retailers are feeling the omnichannel squeeze

Retailers are feeling the omnichannel squeeze

Business StrategyStrategyTop Stories

Zebra Technologies Corporation, a leading digital solution provider enabling businesses to intelligently connect data, assets and people, has announced the findings of its 16th Annual Global Shopper Study which confirmed retailers are feeling the omnichannel squeeze, particularly with managing online returns and reducing shrink caused by theft, fraud and other contributing factors.

Eight in 10 retailers agree minimising fraud/shrink is a significant challenge (85% in Europe, 82% globally), and the ability to forecast demand is important to their organisation (86%). The Zebra study indicates 41% of European retailers (36% globally) believe better analytics on shrink could help drive profitability. Many retailers expect to deploy loss prevention analytics (49%) and demand planning and forecasting (54%) by 2026.

While omnichannel shopping causes challenges for retailers, most shoppers prefer options. Eight in 10 favour a blend of online and in-store shopping, and 75% choose to shop with online retailers that have a brick-and-mortar location. As omnichannel shopping continues to grow, the volume of returns increases along with it. Seven in 10 retailers say the pressure is mounting to improve the efficiency and expense of managing online orders, returns and the fulfillment process. Six in 10 retailers say they are upgrading their returns management technology by 2026.

Store associates will be pleased with this technology investment. Among associates managing returns from online orders, nearly three-quarters (76% in Europe, 74% globally) cite frequent returners as their top challenge. This year in Europe and globally, the ease of making returns has moved ahead as a leading reason shoppers choose to shop in stores, outpacing comparison shopping. The increase of returns has impacted retailers globally, growing to US$1.8 trillion according to the IHL Group.

Consumers dialling into digital checkouts

Since 2020, the number of shoppers who favour digital payment applications have increased substantially; solutions like Zebra Pay align with this trend. Those preferring pay/checkout anywhere in-store almost doubled from 15% to 26%, mobile payments jumped from 33% to 50% and ‘just walk-out’ to avoid a long checkout line doubled from 14% to 30%. Meanwhile, 48% of consumers opt for self-checkouts with 75% saying it helps improve their experience.

Most retailers agree self-checkouts deliver value. In fact, eight in 10 of them agree the investment in self-checkouts is paying off as this technology allows associates to work on higher value tasks and improves the customer experience. However, about 85% of European retail decision-makers and associates (84% globally) agree store shrinkage and theft is a major issue with self-checkouts.

Moving modern retail forward

Consumers have high expectations for technology. Over half of retailers plan to deploy handheld mobile computers (56%), scanners (54%), RFID (61%) as well as task (54%) and workforce (56%) management software by 2026.

Store associates will favour this outcome as the study shows eight in 10 (87% in Europe, 84% globally) of them feel more valued – and view their employer more positively (87% in Europe, 81% globally) – when they have technology to help them do their work.

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