Compete Blog: Cross-Channel Retail – What are online customers doing today?
By Matt Frattaroli
Through a special
arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article
from the Compete
Compete Inc. is a web analytics company that focuses on understanding how consumers
use the internet.
Aside from survey results, few hard facts have been published about
cross-channel retail. Possibly this is because it’s hard to gather data and measure
it to make an apples to apples comparison. Even the definition is not immediately
Some often think of cross-channel as being synonymous with the term “multi-channel” but
it is far more involved than simply having multiple channels. The idea behind
cross-channel retail is that a consumer should have a consistent experience with
a retailer across all channels made available by the retailer. That means having
the same marketing message, pricing, and customer service everywhere – in store,
print, mobile, email, online, catalog or call center.
Sounds complicated? Expensive? Hard to quantify? Yes, yes and yes. But is anyone
I started my quest by looking at a few of the top brick and mortar retailers
to understand what this group was doing from an online commerce perspective:
After marveling at J.C. Penney’s industry leading conversion rate, I then looked
at the sites and their functionality specifically related to anything that would
drive cross channel behavior. After a few passes through the shopping funnel
I found some significant differences. Best Buy and Sears lead the pack with buy
online, pick-up in store options with an order typically available in store within
an hour. Walmart has been pushing “Site-to-Store,” which provides free shipping
to a store or a fee based membership program with faster shipping than the standard
option. J.C. Penney is fourth with a ship to store option that saves you a
whopping $3-$4 on average compared to shipping to your home (does that even cover
the gas?) as well as a limited store inventory look up. And then there’s Target;
no functionality that drives customers to the store but at least they have some
free shipping options. Nice for conversion, but nothing that impacts cross-channel
So then the big question remaining is how are the significant cross-channel retail
initiatives performing at Best Buy, Sears and Walmart? Do customers care? Do
they use it? I then looked at all online orders in June to see what’s going on
from a consumer perspective.
For these three leading retailers, this translates to a lot more foot traffic
in-store and likely a lower cart abandoned rate. While I’m not quantifying ROI
here, it seems to me that from what customers are actually doing with cross-channel
retail (from the buy online, pick-up in store perspective), it is very much in
demand and gives customers a service they obviously want and use today.
Questions: Are retailers achieving a significant boost from buy online, pick-up
in stores options? How important is true cross-channel shopping for retailers?
How can merchants best optimize cross-channel integration on websites?