Retailers' efforts to meet customer demand for a seamless shopping experience across all channels are being hampered by organisational, operational and technology challenges, according to new research.

The study, which was conducted by Forrester Consulting for consultant Accenture, revealed technology integration has become a barrier to implementing digital capabilities across in-store, online and mobile channels.

The research was carried out with 1,500 multi-channel shoppers and 256 decision makers from retail and manufacturing organisations across the US, UK, France and Germany.

Retailers have said they view omni-channel maturity as a "key brand differentiator," and that providing customers with a "seamless shopping experience" across all channels was a top priority.

The study, however, found that 94% of those surveyed felt their companies face "significant barriers" to becoming an integrated omni-channel business.

It also revealed that 71% of shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, with 50% expecting to buy online and pick up their purchase in-store. Yet, only one-third (36%) of companies said they were able to provide in-store pick-up of online purchases, online visibility of cross-channel inventory and store-based fulfilment of online orders.

The problem appears to be in integrating back-office technology across all channels, which 40% of respondents claimed they had issues with.

The survey said this highlighted a key area for improvement: the ability to have a consolidated, accurate view of real-time inventory across stores and distribution centre.

"As customers expect retailers to provide consistent and contextual service across every channel and interaction, retailers need to adopt new technologies that enable this critical transformation to omni-channel customer engagement and service," said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Hybris Software, which jointly commissioned the research.

"This is going to be vital to meeting customers' expectations and, frankly, survival for retailers."

While 46% of those surveyed said they already have a dedicated omni-channel team, conflicting priorities and organisational silos remain a key challenge.

Two additional key barriers identified were difficulty in sharing customer data and analytics between channels, countries or locations, and a lack of in-store associate training.

"The research indicates that many retailers are operating with a ‘false state of omni-channel comfort'," added Walker. "The reality is that the customer is way ahead of many retailers in defining what competitive shopping patterns are, not only across channels, but within each channel.

"If retailers are unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, these competitive threats then their business will go to other retailers agile enough to plug these gaps, and so provide the omni-channel sales experience customers are demanding.

"Retailers that fail to understand the significance of this gap in service and sales delivery are leaving themselves exposed to a significant competitive disadvantage."