One in five retail executives say omnichannel initiatives are a top priority this year, but executive buy-in on strategy and process is limited, a new Forrester/NRF study finds.

Retail executives continue to find omnichannel retailing a tough nut to crack. While many have taken steps to let consumers shop anywhere, at anytime and in any way they choose, merchants continue to struggle adjusting their systems and processes to support that behavior in a way that makes business sense.

The latest “State of Retailing Online” report from Forrester Research Inc. and the National Retail Federation finds 16% of retail executives surveyed “completely agree” their organizations have the right processes in place to execute a consistent omnichannel strategy; 58% “somewhat agree.” 16% also completely agreed they have the right technology to execute omnichannel fulfillment, with 49% somewhat agreeing, and 14% completely agreed their omnichannel fulfillment strategy is clear and well defined, with 54% somewhat agreeing. Just 14% “completely agree” they have the right metrics in place to measure their omnichannel effectiveness, although an additional 53% said they somewhat agree, indicating at least some data is being collected to understand omnichannel effectiveness and its costs.

The Forrester/NRF report is based on a survey of 77 retail executives, with more than half of respondents representing companies with $500 million or more in revenue. About a quarter of respondents held chief-level executive positions.

Omnichannel was the most frequently cited consumer-facing initiative executives said they are prioritizing at 21%. 15% cited the ability to ship goods from store inventory to fulfill online orders, and 12% cited omnichannel fulfillment, such as offering in-store pickup of goods ordered online. In the comparable survey a year ago, executives said mobile improvements were their top priorities.

Survey respondents continue to invest in mobile initiatives, with an emphasis on smartphones. 30% will “increase significantly” their investment in smartphone-related mobile initiatives, and another 59% will “somewhat increase” their investment. Fewer will invest in tablet-related mobile initiatives, with 7% planning to “significantly” increase these investments, and 23% will “somewhat increase” their investment.


Retailers in the survey said they receive 49% of their online traffic from mobile browsers, and 5% from mobile apps. The remaining 46% stems from desktop traffic. Mobile browsers/apps accounted for 36% of online sales. The average conversion rates for mobile touch points continues to trail that of desktop: The median mobile browser conversion rate is 1.7%, per the survey findings, and the median app conversion rate is 2.5%. The median desktop conversion rate is 2.9%.

One element within many retailers’ omnichannel efforts is to arm store clerks with the technology that allows them to deliver across digital and physical touch points to satisfy consumers and potentially save sales that might otherwise be lost. Here, 61% of executives surveyed said they’ve completely enabled workers to place orders for goods available in other stores or in a distribution center. Fewer, 23%, have completely enabled store workers to access information available online, although another 40% have somewhat enabled this access.