Integrating Bricks and Mortar with eCommerce

Today‘s shopper expects convenience. Merchants integrating brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce sites and catalogs will increase repeat purchase rates and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

In any multi-channel retail consumer interaction, traffic and sales are being driven from one channel to the other. In “web-to-store” or “store-to-web” situations, the limitations of one channel are mitigated by the strengths of the other. Consider the potential revenue-maximizing opportunities with the following multichannel business processes.

In-store pick up

In-store pick up is a process allowing your customers to order online and pick up in your physical store. During the process, communication with the customer primarily happens via email and instructs the shopper of the steps necessary to complete the transaction. In most cases, the order is fulfilled at the “brick-and-mortar” store the same business day the order is placed online, with best practices showing most orders filled within a two-hour period.

The primary value to consumers is that they receive their items almost immediately after purchasing. By using in-store pick up, consumers pick up their merchandise at a special designated area, thereby avoiding heavy crowds at the checkout counter. This is a core reason why in-store pick up is so popular during the holiday season, when lastminute ordering is often done online.

The consumer also benefits from not having to pay shipping costs. Sometimes the $6 to $10 associated with shipping a product can be a critical factor to cart abandonment. In-store pick up reduces this risk.

The retail business also benefits from the incremental purchases that are made when a customer goes to the physical store to pick up online purchases. In an internal study, multichannel retailer REI reports that one-third of all customers who buy online and pick up at the store make another purchase while there, with a spend average of $90 (Puget Sound Business Journal).

From a technology perspective, in-store pick up needs to have some level of inventory integration to work effectively. The integration of data is critical in being able to display to the consumer the availability of products at their closest geographic store.

After a user selects the “in-store pickup” option and enters his zip code, the system needs to cross-reference available store-level inventory data to ensure the product is available within an acceptable distance. This inventory accuracy is crucial to deliver a great shopping experience.

Integration does not have to work in real time, but needs to execute multiple data checks throughout the day. Work your in-store pick up product availability based upon thresholds. For example, once an inventory level reaches three in a store location, do not display as available for in-store pick up. In-store pick up should not be executed for all products. Focus on products with high shipping costs and products that a consumer would typically want immediately.

In-store returns

Returning a product purchased online can be an extremely frustrating experience. Between determining if the retailer will pay for the shipping, waiting in line at the post office and waiting for a refund, the returns process is known for giving consumers headaches.

Accepting online product returns in a physical store is a tactic to make the returns experience pleasant and easier for the customer. By displaying an in-store returns option on your site?s home page, product page and within the shopping cart, a retailer reduces consumer purchase hesitation and will likely drive conversion improvement.

Similar to in-store pick up, in-store returns generate incremental in-store purchases. After receiving their refund, consumers frequently shop for and purchase additional items while in the store. These actions can lead to order values that are actually greater than the initial online purchase and drive higher lifetime consumer value.

The key to executing in-store returns is to have order management from the web and the physical stores driven from the same database. By providing the in-store associate the ability to look up information based upon order numbers on the packing slip, the process can be verified and the transaction can be closed by the associate.

Emailed in-store coupons and promotions

Email is predominantly used as a mechanism to drive webstore promotions. Multichannel businesses, however, are realizing the value of emailing “in-store” or hybrid promotions to their mail lists.

“In-store” email promotions allow the consumer to print an email promotion (say $25 off a $150 purchase) and have it accepted at the retail store. For businesses wanting to further track multichannel purchasing, consider generating unique barcodes for each email that provide added levels of insight and security.

Hybrid emails allow promotions to be leveraged in-store and online via a purchase code. By giving the consumer the ability to choose how they want to utilize the promotion, a retailer builds a stronger service connection with the shopper.

Store locator

Now standard among ecommerce stores, a store-locator function must be able to find the closest stores based upon zip code while providing door-to-door directions online. If you have a physical store network but do not provide store locator functionality, you are dramatically behind the innovation curve.

All of these initiatives are geared toward achieving one objective ? closing the sale.

Kevin Gold
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