Consumers Want Merchandise Their Way

At the e-tailing group, we continue to believe a two-faceted convenience will drive new prospects to test the online shopping waters, which generally results in the web receiving a greater share of this customer’s wallet. Consequently, what follows are some of the highlights from the e-tailing group’s 3rd Annual Buy Online Pickup In-store research.

The web as a resource to improve the store shopping experience.

Today, with 51 percent of consumers researching on the Internet and then completing their purchases offline, online research influences more than $400 billion of in-store sales and projections call for that sum to surpass $1.1 trillion by 2012.

Asked why they purchased products offline rather than on the online, the most common answer was to obtain the product immediately (51 percent), followed by wanting to see the item before purchasing it (42 percent), not wanting to pay shipping cost (40 percent) or that it was more convenient to buy offline (27 percent).

Research supports consumer demand.

With a goal of understanding the multichannel experience based on purchasing online and picking up in-store from a customer experience, merchandising, and channel integration perspective, in 2Q’07 our mystery shoppers visited 23 retailers who offer this service. Each was shopped twice to test the overall customer experience in large and small store formats for comparison and consistency.

Key findings from the Buy Online/Pick-up In-store Study.

  • The consumer experience for in store pick-up has seen exponential improvement year to year. And given the feature’s growth with greater merchant participation, there is a concerted effort to deliver an integrated and holistic consumer experience.
  • Retail locaters are continuing to improve where enhancements will evolve with technology (i.e. add store event to Outlook, Google earth maps).
  • The shop online/pick-up in-store experience starts with the retail locater which all surveyed sites offer in varying degrees of complexity. The perfect locater goes well beyond providing store listings to include customer service and merchandising elements that facilitate finding and communicating with the store; then quickly obtaining desired merchandise.

Merchants tout ship-to-store capability.

This year we expanded our focus to learn more about on-site visibility and promotion. Beyond the retail store locator (41 percent) we found that in-store pick-up is most frequently promoted on the home page (50 percent).

Verbiage selected to promote pick-up services is evenly distributed with 23 percent of the sites referring to it as either pick-up, store pick-up or in-store pick-up.

Lastly we examined the Help area of these sites and found that 58 percent now wisely include information on this service, though a greater penetration would be ideal.

In-store experience evolves to support customer demands.

  • Same day pick-up seems more prevalent as merchants upgrade systems and capabilities.
  • Tightening of the time allowed to pick up products.
  • More designated pick-up counters though certainly not universal.
  • Pick-up counters are easier to find, as more merchants are now directing shoppers with in-store signage.
  • Although associates were more knowledgeable and helpful throughout the pick-up experience, with less multi-tasking, merchandise was ready and waiting less frequently.
  • Overall, wait time for service increased slightly.

Post-order communication leaves room for improvement.

Unfortunately we found supporting on-site and post-order communications to keep customers well informed to be lacking. Beyond the universal order confirmation and newly tracked on-site thank-you page, notifications were less prevalent than in the past. Fewer merchants sent emails that merchandise was ready for pick-up (52 percent) or that the product had shipped to the store (23 percent). Those including pick-up instructions within their on-site thank-you messaging, also added to the survey this year, numbered just 32 percent. Even merchants who phoned to advise customers that the goods were on hand decreased to 21 percent.

Delivering a seamless experience that supports cross-channel branding efforts with stellar execution in store pre- and post-purchase are no small feat. Merchants who invest in systems that support in store pickup can add significant revenue and also take advantage of customers who come to their store equipped to spend even more. Paying attention to communication, associate training and then leveraging each opportunity to wisely promote the service and current in-store merchandising and promotions will be a win-win for the customer and merchant.

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
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