A new age of consumerism is reshaping commerce. Our 2023 Benchmark for Specialty Retail is the industry’s first Unified Commerce benchmark with real purchases, real returns, and real customer journeys across digital and physical channels.
Learn what leaders do to differentiate.
Because convenience + customer empowerment drives the modern retail experience.
Unified commerce technology promises a consistent and seamless omnichannel experience across all channels, whether they are shopping online, in-store, or through a mobile device. Its goal is the seamless fusing of all channels to create a singular experience for the customer, like searching and ordering online and picking up or delivering from a store, engaging the contact center directly from a ship confirmation text, or even giving customers complete control of post-purchase options from their mobile device. The problem for many retailers is that a growing variety of selling, engagement, and fulfillment expectations have made delivering those omnichannel commerce experiences increasingly more difficult.
But the Unified Commerce Benchmark research shows that when we get it right, a unified commerce approach ensures every shopping journey becomes a brand loyalty opportunity and striving to achieve a leadership position represents a significant opportunity to grow revenue as well.
Digital devices and apps are the lenses through which modern-day humanity interacts with the physical world.
Shoppers don’t see “channels” the way retailers do. They simply shop. For brands, embracing a digital-first ethos doesn’t mean giving up on physical retail. It means amplifying each by fusing the two together seamlessly.
We are now in the age of hyper convenience, with 15-minute delivery for essentials through "quick commerce" players such as Gopuff and Gorillas. Specialty retailers must reshape shopper expectations around convenience to be about more than just speed, offering a varied choice of payment and delivery options, for instance.
Importantly, they must differentiate between brand and customer experience to avoid competing on convenience alone.
As consumers passionately embrace new values — from environmental friendliness to social equity, holistic wellness to inclusive diversity — they expect their favorite brands to stand up and be counted.
Shoppers signal virtue through the choices they make, and demand that brands find a purpose beyond profit. Brands can make commerce more responsible by helping shoppers find products that align with their value system, be transparent about their supply chain & educate shoppers about the environmental impact of various shipping options.
Incisiv first developed a detailed parameterized list of Unified Commerce customer experience capabilities.
Then, based on shopper insights, retailer executive surveys, retailer digital and store performance data and segment level KPI benchmarks, we organized key capabilities into Table Stakes and Differentiating Experiences.
lncisiv developed an objective list of 124 retailers across 11 specialty retail segments. We chose a mix of top omnichannel retailers by revenue, and top Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) by store count.
lncisiv's team of customer experience analysts then conducted comprehensive shopping journeys, including real purchases and returns, across both physical and in-person channels.
Assessed retailers were then scored based on the adoption of customer experience capabilities, the efficacy of each capability, and the consistency and quality of experience.
Based on their score, brands were organized into one of four performance categories — Leaders, Challengers, Followers, or Laggards — each with a statistically significant difference in capability maturity and impact on performance.
lncisiv's Unified Commerce Assessment Framework spans 286 customer experience capabilities across the following four functional areas. The number of attributes assessed in each area is provided in parentheses.
Effectiveness, relevance and maturity of digital selling experiences
Order personalization, inventory visibility, checkout and payment options, order pickup and returns
Availability, speed, cost and convenience of fulfillment
Resolution, returns, customer assistance, loyalty program and account management
A specialty retailer currently rated a Challenger would stand to gain ~$40M per billion dollars in annual revenue by improving its Unified Commerce maturity to a Leader.
Laggards offer a severely lacking Unified Commerce experience, missing even some basic table-stakes functionality.
Followers offer a basic Unified Commerce experience, addressing most table-stake capabilities. Their experiences lack depth and are light on the adoption of differentiated capabilities.
Challengers offer a seamless Unified Commerce experience
built on a solid foundation of capabilities. They offer some differentiated experiences but lack the depth and coverage of leaders.
Leaders offer the richest Unified Commerce experience within and across retail segments. They lead in the adoption of differentiated experiences and are functionally mature across assessment areas.
Leaders help shoppers discover meaningful products - whether they are looking to fulfill an immediate need, or simply in need for inspiration. They strive to go beyond being a place to find products, to becoming a lifestyle hack for their shoppers. They do so through advanced digital personalization, best-in-class in-store assisted selling, and excellent online and in-store merchandising.
Leaders understand the broader context of a shopper's purchase intent, and assist them through deeply contextual search and filtering capabilities online, and similarly guided assistance in-store. e.g. How soon can it be delivered? Does it have a specific product characteristic or feature they are looking for? Can they back-order their preferred size and color if it is out-of-stock?
Leaders make shoppers feel good about their purchase decisions: what they're buying, and who they're buying from. They go beyond product features, and immerse the shopper in the brand's ethos. They storytell their greater purpose, and have shoppers buy into their vision for why their way is good for the shopper, good for business, and good for the world.
The biggest point of friction in today's retail customer experience is due to the loss of context when transiting between the physical and the digital. A unified cart or basket is a foundational capability to provide that critical connective tissue across channels. Even though a truly unified basket remains elusive, Leaders have made the most progress.
Leaders offer shoppers the widest choice of payment types, both online and in-store, providing that extra bit of flexibility that makes their purchase decision easier. They make it simple and convenient for shoppers to pay however they prefer, including through gift cards, loyalty points, store credit, mobile wallets, pay-later apps, store credit cards, and any combination therein.
Addressing in-store and online cart abandonment is a huge revenue opportunity for retailers. A majority of cart abandonment occurs due to less than ideal shopper experience at checkout - long wait times in-store, or multi-step checkout on line, for instance. Leaders provide seamless checkout experiences that reduce unnecessary friction at the point of conversion.
Leaders offer shoppers a comprehensive set of delivery and pick-up options, focusing not just on speed but on flexibility to fit busy lifestyles. They accommodate ordering complexity without compromising checkout convenience, allowing shoppers to select different delivery options for products within the same order for instance.
Leaders understand that simply exposing available inventory to shoppers is no longer good enough. They provide early, narrow, consistent, and accurate delivery estimates throughout the shopper journey. And, they clearly communicate with shoppers in case a delivery estimate changes during the order process, helping build a higher degree of shopper confidence and trust.
Leaders make sure shoppers' product pick-up or delivery experience is as good as their shopping journey. Not only do leaders meet or beat their delivery promises consistently, they do so while being more environmentally friendly. They also offer shoppers greater postorder flexibility, such as complete or partial cancellations, item modifications, and change of delivery or pick-up method.
Leaders are more transparent with shoppers across a variety of relationship vectors - from orders to service requests, from data use and to supply chain practices. They also ensure the drop-off in transparency between digital and physical channels isn't `as steep by providing the necessary tools and training for store and call center associates.
Leaders offer shoppers a wide variety of service options — from in-store assistance to call centers, social media support to live agents on their website and mobile app. Importantly though, they offer seamless continuity, consistent quality, and always-on availability across their service portfolio. They empower shoppers to self-serve most of their service needs, offer "silent" support options such as via text, and ensure they don't have to wait long to talk to a human if they choose to.
Leaders don't just limit services to mean providing support. They offer value-added services such as customizations, style and fit guidance, and in-store hospitality to turn service interactions into a secret sauce of brand stickiness. Leaders empower store and call center associates with the tools and training needed to convert a moment of potential churn into one that builds feverish brand loyalty.
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