Compete Blog: Cross Channel Shopping Is a Must

Discussion
Jul 27, 2010
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By Debra Miller

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from the Compete Blog. Compete Inc.
is a web analytics company that focuses on understanding how consumers use
the internet.

Consumers increasingly do not differentiate between store inventory
and online inventory, meaning that retailers need to stop thinking about them
as two separate entities.  Accordingly to the latest Compete Online Shopper
Intelligence study, more than one out of every three consumers indicate that
they are extremely or very likely to research products online before purchasing
them in a store.

At the same time, asked what would encourage them to purchase
more products online, 54 percent indicated an in-store return option while
45 percent indicated an in-store pickup option.

Cost, convenience and the need for a tactile experience are the top reasons
consumers research online, but purchase in a store, according to the study. 
While retailers can alleviate some of the cost and convenience hurdles with
free and fast shipping or in-store pickup and returns, they cannot provide
consumers with a tactile experience over the internet (or at least not yet).
Making sure online inventory matches in-store inventory as well as making sure
product information on websites is accurate becomes more critical in looking
to convert online shoppers into in-store purchasers.

Finally, retailers need to understand how consumer cross channel
behavior varies by category. Electronics top the list when looking at the tendency
to research online but purchase in a store, as more than half of the consumers
surveyed in the study said they would do so. Home related products — kitchen,
home furnishings and home improvement — round out slots 2 – 4 at about 40
percent of shoppers stating they research online before purchasing offline.

Retailers
selling these categories need to think of every online shopper as a potential
in-store customer. It would also be strategically prudent of these retailers
to make sure they are present on "Where to Buy" lists on
third party sites so that they do not miss out on in-market consumers.

Discussion
Questions: What are the best ways for retailers to convert online browsers
into in-store shoppers? For most retailers, what is most needed for improving
the cross channel shopping experience?

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15 Comments on "Compete Blog: Cross Channel Shopping Is a Must"


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Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
10 years 9 months ago

Do consumers shop online for offline purchases? Yes, universally. According to the American Interactive Consumer Survey, 85% of the 110 million US Internet shoppers (who are at least 18 and go online at least once a month) have shopped online for purchases made locally offline. These results confirm that the Internet is now widely used for local shopping information as well as for making online purchases.

Online consumers told surveyors that they spend more time researching products online than they spend shopping in person. Two-thirds of multi-channel shoppers said the Internet is their most important shopping information resource.

Multi-channel shoppers also purchase more at local stores than they originally planned to after doing online research, according to the study.

As more consumers shop across multiple retail channels, their expectations will increase for a consistent multi-channel shopping experience.

Retailers need to integrate in-store and online operations to increase traffic, sales, profits, market share, and share of customer and shareholder value.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Consumers expect to be able to do cross channel shopping in a seamless way between retail stores and their online sites. It is no longer acceptable for retailers to treat the two as separate businesses where consumers are concerned.

The purchasing and returns process needs to be completely interchangeable. If the consumer purchased an item at “mystore.com” than she wants to be able to make an exchange or return the merchandise to “my store.”

It is very doable and very possible to make this happen for consumers and the retailers that do are going to get a terrific jump in accumulating market share vs. those that stay complacent and take no action.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
10 years 9 months ago
Isn’t it ironic that it’s actually easier to enable buy online/pick-up in store or buy online/return in store than it is to provide inventory visibility across channels? You would think you’d need the one before the other. The reality is that you can kluge cross-channel inventory returns–baling wire and chewing gum types of processes–but you can’t kluge inventory visibility. Unfortunately, that visibility is kind of a prerequisite if you’re going to expand your fulfillment capabilities beyond chewing-gum, expedient, “temporary” processes. This is why cross-channel is transformative. This is not simply adding capabilities that enhance each channel. Inventory is a perfect example of how cross-channel reaches into the very heart of the retail business model. In order to have inventory visibility, you need a single pool of inventory. That means buying, selling, pricing, marking down…not that the policies are going to be the same, but that the view of the inventory is holistic and not exclusive to the channel it happens to reside in. That’s a huge change from the way retailers think about inventory today–it’s… Read more »
Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 9 months ago

We’re embarking on a new chapter in cross-channel where the best retailers will begin to pull ahead of the pack with completely convergent online and bricks and mortar experiences. In other words, the in-store and online experiences will no longer be disparate but rather mirror images of one another.

Technology will infuse the in-store experience with information and access to data, while human interaction, sensory elements and other experiential events bring the online shop to life.

The end result will be brands that provide a single and remarkable experience, whether online or in-store. As consumers we will soon stop distinguishing between the two experiences.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This study is about 10 years behind the times. Consumers have long thought that the Internet and brick and mortar retail should present a seamless shopping experience. Any retailer that has not merged online and offline courts consumer dissatisfaction.

Retailers must make it simple for consumers to order online, pick up purchases in-store, make in-store returns or exchanges and return through the mail. To the consumer it is one transaction with many options. Why shouldn’t it be the same for the merchant? With the Internet allowing consumers to arm themselves with pricing and product facts, the best way to draw in consumers is through stellar customer service and a seamless shopping experience.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
10 years 9 months ago
The distance between research and purchase is shrinking all the time: mobile & Facebook are becoming viable ecommerce platforms, so we as consumers can act on our whim to purchase wherever and whenever we feel the need. This changes the retail game significantly. Consumers’ willingness to tolerate out-of-stocks, to pay shipping (outbound or return), and to wait for delivery will all continue to drop. Retailers will need to think holistically about the shopper and this will challenge many barriers: supply chain, organizational silos (ebiz vs. store), marketing (interactive vs. offline). As a shopper, I will want to be able to reserve items for in-store pick up, buy online and pick up in-store, comparison shop in-store, and return at no cost to me. Are retailers ready for this truly cross-channel world? I’d say today most of them are not. We’re going to need to rethink the store and the role of “shopper marketing.” Most retailers continue to have disconnected ecommerce and store efforts but realistically these two functions will need to feed off each other; the… Read more »
Gib Bassett
Guest
Gib Bassett
10 years 9 months ago

Acknowledging you have customers, period, is a good place to start. That would seem to be the implication of the research. Retailers who classify customers as “e-commerce, ” “in-store,” “buys online but picks up in store,” etc., are less likely to architect their plans around the “omni channel” shopping experience. Taking a step back and considering how well systems and data are integrated to create a single unified customer profile that sheds light into how high value customers transact with you today should be instructive.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Researching and ordering from retailers’ websites is going to always speed up the buying cycle. Knowing what you need before ordering is an asset. Being able to purchase online and pick up at the retail outlet enhances the likelihood of additional purchases once in the store. Retailers need to get this. It is a major point that will become increasingly more important as technology continues to expand the possibilities.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This is another important issue in the convergence of e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailing. Plug personal shopping assistants like iPhone into the mix, and inventory access may be even more urgent. Notice that Amazon often tells you how many they have in stock, and often from a variety of sources, new and used. Again, Amazon at the fore in the convergence of e-, m-, and b&m commerce. (Electronic, Mobile and Bricks and Mortar.) Maybe we should call this convergence cemb&m?

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Retailers who separate online and in-store buying in any way are making what will be a massive mistake for the future. Retailers who are trying to figure out how to convert online browsers into in-store shoppers are missing the objective of their business.

It is the retailer’s objective to sell the merchandise. If an online browser makes a decision to purchase a given product from a given retailer, encourage them to make the purchase then and there. Any time and space that develops between the purchase decision online and the actual in-store purchase is an opportunity to lose the sale.

If anything, the retailer should be asking themselves how to get their in store shopper to become an online loyal customer. If the retailer can develop that customer, online ease will produce a frequency of visit to the retailer’s online store that far surpasses the frequency of visit to the brick and mortar store. And, of course, more frequent visits make more frequent purchases.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

“Retailers…need to think of every online shopper as a potential in-store customer.”

Well, yes and no. Certainly a retailer needs to recognize their website will have a wide audience and serves as a magnet to their store–much as a display window does now–but it would be folly to assume every web visit will result in a(n in-store) sale; the key of course is translating “x” online visits into “y” in-store sales…something that will be difficult as the medium is still in its formative stage.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Max is sooo right. Multichannel convergence is a concept with a decade of discussion history. The “discoveries” in this survey are hardly news, although it’s interesting to note that shoppers seem somewhat more conscious of the motivations that influence their channel-choice calculus.

Shoppers, frankly my dear, don’t give a d*** about our cross-channel inventory management challenges. They just want what they want, when and where and how they want it. Their reasons come down to risk avoidance, time-saving convenience, and value.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
10 years 9 months ago

The focus in this post has been on in-store pickup and return as a way to motivate consumers to research on the web, but shop in the store. Both of these features are important, but I believe that we are missing a critical component–customer service and support.

We all know what it is like to be “growing old on hold” or getting on the phone with someone who is reading from a script and cannot help us “beyond the lines.” In-store or in-person customer service is one of the reasons that Geek Squad has flourished for Best Buy, as well as other in-person service, installation and support providers.

Retailers who stress the immediacy and effectiveness of in-person customer service (or on the phone with someone they know), will also see a benefit in conversion, since those features are things that online etailers have great difficulty in replicating.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
10 years 9 months ago

Fact is that in 90%+ of the cases you can only get good product information by getting it online. Every retailer is pushing one product or another and you almost never get a clear picture because manufacturers run contest to get retailers to push their products. I was at an AT&T kiosk a few months back and the “[associate]” was selling a customer off the iPhone to a cheaper product. The customer insisted on buying the iPhone an got it, but kid fought her tooth and nail. I asked him why he did that and he told me there was a contest that he wanted to win. I asked him what the fee was for the brand x phone and the iPhone. Brand x was $39.95/month and the iPhone was $69/month. This would have cost AT&T $720 in revenue over the two years of the contract. The clerk was doing a disservice to his customer and his employer. That wouldn’t happen online.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Give the online shopper something that they can get in-store to get them to leave the keyboard, and vice-versa for the store shopper.

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