A new study by Manhattan Associates has identified a significant gap between the ambition for seamless integration between online and offline shopping experiences and actual practice, with retailers admitting that on average they only have an accurate indication of inventory across their entire operations 68% of the time – with just 4% reporting 100% accuracy.

“In 2024’s challenging economic landscape, where consumers are more hesitant to part with their money, the necessity for a frictionless shopping experience has never been more pronounced. ANZ retailers are at a crossroads, with a clear directive to enhance their omnichannel strategies,” Manhattan Associates ANZ managing director, Raghav Sibal said.

“Our research shows that if an item is out of stock, 36% of customers prefer having the option to find it at a nearby store or consider a similar product. Retailers who streamline this process, making every touchpoint and transaction as efficient and engaging as possible, can turn browsers into buyers.”

Consumer expectations reflect a preference for immediate solutions when products are unavailable in-store, signalling a strong demand for technologies that improve stock visibility and availability across channels. Manhattan Associates’ research also highlighted the partial integration between online purchases and in-store returns, with less than half of retailers (47%) offering this service.

Greater adoption of RFID tags in retail stores is one way to improve inventory accuracy, helping retailers to simultaneously achieve operational efficiencies and enhance the customer experience. Currently, 43% of retailers said they have adopted RFID technology into their operations, however only 34% are utilising RFID for ensuring accurate, real-time stock levels, highlighting that a significant majority of retailers are yet to advance their operational efficiency.

The significance of knowledgeable shop assistants is also highlighted, with 63% of consumers placing a premium on product expertise. Without an accurate view of stock or inventory, sales assistants are at a disadvantage, impairing their ability to fulfill their roles effectively.

“Equipping staff with the necessary tools and information is just as crucial as investing in technology to ensure they can deliver informed and engaging customer experiences. While retailers in ANZ understand the necessity of omnichannel strategies, the challenge lies not in the desire to adopt them, but in the complexity of implementation. In today’s market, to simply offer integration is no longer sufficient,” Sibal said.

“Retailers need to rethink traditionally held ideas around assets and operations. This change is all about making shopping as easy and enjoyable in person as it is online. Walking into a store with prior online research is now the norm, making online and offline shopping a single, continuous experience.”