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Average Index score rises 4 points quarter-over-quarter.

The Sporting Goods category took the top spot on the leader board from Q2 leader—Electronics/Entertainment.  Mobile and app experiences improve, while in-store experiences still lag their online siblings in a few key areas.  

Researchers in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have completed their shopping research across the experiences created, cross-channel, at more than 100 of the nation’s largest retailers.  The PYMNTS.com OmniReadi Index™, powered by Vantiv, is a quarterly experience survey designed to quantify the consistency between web and in-store shopping experience and to determine if the mobile channel is helping, hurting or simply neutral to the overall experience across the more than 100 merchants surveyed.  Half of the Top 100 retailers and another 51 from the Top 101-500 merchants comprise the Index.

So what did the researchers find in the quarter leading up to the holiday season? Here’s a look at some of the key findings:

The best are getting better

The top 10 indexed merchants are still driving the omni experience. They’re also in significant part responsible for the overall index score uptick, as their average score rose five (5) points. Research finds that the top 10 merchants almost universally feature online purchase, online coupon redemption, and seamless return policies (buy/return anywhere), as well as consistent and numerous payment options across channel.  These retailers also continue to differentiate in their cross-channel ability to:  1) provide customers with purchase history view; 2) match pricing; 3) offer quick checkout—cross-channel; and, 4) provide consistent payment offerings. 

Web still rules.  Apps picking up.   In-store experience still lacking in some areas.  Here’s what’s missing most (offered online, but not in-store)

The social sharing experience is present in about 75% of merchants’ online experiences, but missing from in-store.   Related to sharing, product recommendations are available in roughly 74% of merchants’ online experiences, but not in-store.    And, in some of the categories where consumers have expressed the most interest for richer experience, 68% of merchants provide order history online, but not in-store.  Granting wish lists is present online, but not in-store for 67% of the Index’s retailers. 

Q2 report called out app weakness, but there’s been improvement

Both online and in-app, there’s been some improvement in areas of cited weakness just three months ago.  For example, the ability to set account preferences is nearly universal among merchants online and has dramatically improved in-app across merchants.  The ability to set account preferences in-app, for example, shot from 39% in Q2 to 68% in Q3. Product recommendations and social sharing, traditional laggard areas cross-channel, both saw modest increases in online availability quarter-over-quarter. Most significant is narrowing of the “app-gap”. Sixty percent (60%) of merchants have an app as of October, versus only 30% in July.  What those apps offer, however, is still widely varied.    

There’s more to come as researchers go in-store and online as the busy holiday shopping season begins.  Stay-tuned for what develops in the next Index.