Retail services are changing quickly. Customers want their shopping experiences to be faster and more efficient. One service that customers are responding particularly well to is being able to buy products online and then going to a store to pick up their order.
Boston Retail Partners did a customer engagement survey this year, and discovered that 41 percent of retailers already have this capability. Of the retailers who do not, 78 percent say that they want to offer their customers online ordering and in store pickup, and will be adding the option within the next three years.
Consumers have clear advantages when using this kind of service. They no longer have to drive to a store just to find out the item they were intending to buy is out of stock. They leave empty handed and may not return if this happens often enough. By using this ordering feature, though, customers can choose their desired size and color, and have it ready at the store for pickup within a day or two. This type of service also gives customers the convenience of buying online but allows them to avoid typical online shipping fees, as most retailers do not charge for site-to-store delivery. Popular stores like Target, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s already offer this feature to their customers, so will it work for you?
Is your company set up to sell over the internet? If it is not, adding e-commerce to your physical location is the first step, and it can be surprisingly easy. By adding the option for customers to buy online and pick up in store to your shopping cart feature, you too can take advantage of this popular trend. If you already have an e-commerce service, talk to them about including this feature to your site.
It isn’t even necessary to offer everything in your brick-and-mortar store online, either. Decide what would benefit from being on your website—it might be something incredibly popular that people often ask about, seasonal offerings, or additional size and color options that aren’t practical to offer in your store. You can even rotate your options to see what works and what does not. Having products available for your customers on a website will generate sales that you might not have gotten before, as people would have left the store empty handed when your stock was out.
Some large companies like Target can offer next or same day in store pickup because of the large amount of fulfillment centers they have across the country, and their own trucks to transport items from store to store. For companies operating on a smaller scale, this is not feasible. However, it should not discourage you from taking advantage of this sales opportunity. Be honest with your customers about turnaround time and let them know when their order is available for pickup. Sending email or text alerts when the product arrives is a helpful way to alert the customer and get them into the store to retrieve their items.
Be sure to make an in-store pickup training program for your employees. Teach them how you want them to handle the in-store pickup process. Work out the logistics of how you will allow customers to interact with their purchases prior to leaving the store, for example if they want to try it on, examine or feel the product. If the purchase is not what they expected, have your employees ready to process a return immediately. Customers will appreciate having this as an option if they are unsatisfied with the item, and you are saving them an extra trip.
If you don’t think your customers will be interested in this offering, it is a good question. Think about how much time and energy your employees will be spending on pulling stock to fulfill these types of orders. It might seem like a lot of work, but if you want to stay competitive and keep customers away from big companies who already offer this service, it is better if you can offer a comparable option.
If you don’t think this is something you can manage, consider having an inventory service that keeps your website up to date with your physical stock. A cloud-based inventory program that connects to your existing POS system will be able to give you this capability. This way, customers can check your stock before they come to the store and leave empty handed because what they want isn’t there, or they can call ahead to verify an item’s availability and the salesperson can put it on hold for them.
These options offer more flexibility to your store and are as convenient as site-to-store online ordering. It will take some staff shuffling and planning to be able to handle the extra incoming calls and stock pulling.
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