Retailers lag in omnichannel as holiday hiring grows

Shoppers continue to integrate digital devices into their lives and crave an equally integrated experience from retailers, but satisfying this heightened set of ominchannel expectation remains a work in progress for most retailers.

Few retailers have a well-defined omnichannel strategy with most professing to be in the development phase, according to a global consulting firm Hay Group. This rather worrisome insight was among the key findings in global consuling firm Hay Group’s 7th annual holiday hiring survey.

“Customers are increasingly demanding a seamless shopping experience across the web, in store catalogues and at brick-and-mortar locations,” said Maryam Morse, the firm’s national practice leader for retail. “Retailers that have an omnichannel strategy in place this holiday season will have a distinct competitive advantage to those that are still working very hard to catch up.”

According to the Hay Group survey, only 14% of retailers reported having an omnichannel strategy in place while 64% characterized their strategy as, “still in progress.”

“The biggest surprise of this year’s study is that only 14% of companies have an omnichannel strategy that has been communicated to the organization,” said Morse. “Every one of our clients is working on positioning themselves in the emerging omnichannel marketplace. This reflects the fact that many retailers are not as far along as they want to be.”

While study’s omnichannel insights are interesting, the primary focus of the annual survey is to get a read on retailer’s holiday hiring intentions. In that regard, respondents to Hay Group’s study confirmed what early estimates regarding consumer spending intentions showed with nearly 80% of retailers expecting sales to increase. The confidence in the 2013 holiday season is reflected in retailers’ plans for hiring, with 25% of retailers expecting to hire more seasonal workers than they did in 2012 and another 61% planning to hire at about the same level.

“Retailers are planning for a very merry holiday season in 2013,” said Craig Rowley, vp and global practice leader for Hay Group’s Retail practice. “Even so, there is a sense of only cautious optimism in the air, particularly in sectors like apparel and general merchandising that have experienced stagnant sales in recent months. Coming off of a sluggish back-to-school shopping season, retail organizations are keeping a keen eye on the economy and consumer confidence as they head into the 2013 holiday season.”

Increasing seasonal hiring tends to correlate closely with sales, according to Morse.

“Seasonal hiring is typically a strong indicator of holiday sales,” she said. “This is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy — as when retailers staff up, sales increase, and when retailers decrease staffing, sales suffer. This is a real-time decision that retailers have to make when it comes to balancing payroll spend with anticipated sales.”