As customers continue to migrate to online stores and Mobile eCommerce grows, many local brick and mortar stores are at risk of losing sales and customers. In early 2012 the big box retailer Best Buy announced it was closing 50 stores. However smart merchants are starting to use using to eCommerce to drive foot traffic to the stores, without needing to resort to Groupon like discounts which can have disastrous results.
Two stores that are currently taking advantage of this are home renovation retailers Lowe’s and Home Depot. When you place an item in your shopping cart you can choose “in store pickup” as your shipping option.
If you register as a customer giving them your email and telephone number they will even send you in-progress status updates. This lets you know your order is “in-process” (someone is walking around getting the items for you) and when your order is ready for pickup. Having used both of these personally I can tell you the process is extremely convenient. You can place an order at 11 PM (when both stores are closed), get an “in-process” text message the next day around 7 AM and be notified your order is ready to be picked up usually before 8 AM. For customers who have grown accustomed to the Amazon Prime free two day shipping or $4 next day shipping this option has an even greater level of instant gratification.
Another merchant who has gone a different route of using eCommerce to drive in store traffic is Apple. In addition to the in store pickup when shopping from the iPhone app, you can also self-checkout in the store with your iPhone.
You can walk in the store open the app, scan the bar code of one or more items, and pay for them, without needing to wait on a line for a cashier to complete your transaction. I’ve used this as well and found it was really convenient. I did ask an in store rep about the process, and he said there was a $180 limit and the “greeter” will “challenge” you if you don’t get a bag and appear to be walking out of the store with merchandise in-hand. They can check all of the in-store checkouts on the iPad they are holding or you can show them the receipt on your phone.
Another aspect to this hybrid eCommerce shopping, is customer service. Stores that have traditional brick and mortar locations should offer the option of in store exchanges and returns of online purchases. By treating all customers the same, and not making it creating additional paperwork or processing of online purchases that are returned to the physical store, merchants level “shopping experience” and the playing field with online stores like Zappos or Land’s End which have extremely liberal return policies.
So what are the takeaways from this article:
- Look for ways to let your customers get their merchandise the way they choose with fast expedited shipping methods or in-store pickup
- If a significant portion of your customers are smart phone owners, consider apps that allow them to self checkout
- Merchants like Amazon, Zappos and Land’s End have raised the bar of customers expectations on shipping and returns, look for ways make shopping, exchanges and returns at your store as “frictionless” an experience as possible.