Brands must leverage omnichannel product delivery if they want to have a competitive edge this Christmas, a new report says.

As consumers increasingly utilise digital channels as their main purchasing channel, retailers need to cater for these habits during the critical holiday period.

Omnichannel strategies will help retailers maximise e-commerce and in-store business in the Christmas holidays, according to a recent Gartner L2 Insight Report.

The Christmas period is essential for retailers, the report says. With Australian retailers experiencing the weakest sales figures in years in 2017, the upcoming holiday season will be a particularly tell-tale period for the sector.

“Each year, the holiday season – Black Friday through Christmas – marks a defining moment for direct to consumer retail brands. During the holidays, DTC brands either demonstrate competitive strengths and gain a new stream of customers, or they display weaknesses that set them back,” the report says.

Offering a range of fulfilment methods to give customer’s flexibility, being transparent about shipping turn-over and utilising existing mobile systems is the key to competing with other e-commerce giants whilst also improving traffic in-store, the report says.

“To compete against the leading players in digital retail, DTC brands must provide a series of baseline and advanced omnichannel features and functionalities, including real-time inventory on product pages and expedited shippings, in time for the holidays, all while communicating offerings,” the report says.

Associate Professor Gary Mortimer from QUT Business School says that it is increasingly important that retailers engage on an omnichannel level.

“Consumers are actively seeking retailers that provided both a physical and digital experience. What we are certainly seeing as retailers change is a blend of digital technology and in-store experiences,” he said.

Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retailers Association said that as the retail landscape dramatically transforms itself, it is critical retailers engage with consumers online, particularly at Christmas, where new opportunities to engage with a new demographic open up.

“Having omnichannel during the Christmas period is important because we know that that’s when a number of new sales are happening,” she said.