Shoppers who order online for in-store pickup are more likely to find the item ready and waiting when they arrive at the store this year, according to a mystery shopper survey conducted by The E-tailing Group, a consulting firm that specializes in eCommerce. But retailers could do a better job of communicating important information to online shoppers picking up merchandise in-stores, said E-tailing Group president, Lauren Freedman.
The E-Tailing Group's mystery shoppers waited on average 2.58 minutes to pickup items this year, compared with 3.21 minutes a year ago, and 3.64 minutes in 2006, according to the report, titled, "Cross-Channel Research & Shopping: Winning Tactics and Treatments." Products were ready and waiting, rather than having store employees pull them from shelves, 94 percent of the time this year, compared with 83 percent last year.
As in the previous two surveys, employees were knowledgeable and able to find the merchandise quickly, more than 80 percent of the time. In general, Freedman said, the consumer experience was good.
While there are signs of improvement, retailers could still do a better job of informing consumers about the in-store pickup option on their websites, and providing important information on how to pickup goods, according to Freedman. She said most retailers publicize the in-store pickup option on home pages. Half are putting this information on product detail pages this year, compared with just 27 percent in 2007. This year, 71 percent of retailers sent emails notifying consumers that their products were ready for pickup, up from 54 percent a year ago. However, few of the emails sent after the order was placed included important information, such as store location, contact info and store hours. "The customer should have all the information they need on one piece of paper," Freedman advised.
In the stores, there is considerable variation on how much guidance consumers get about where to pickup goods, sometimes within a single retail chain. Freedman recalled visiting three Walmart stores, one with few signs about in-store pickup, another with pickup in the jewelry department and a third with signs throughout the store.
The survey covered 24 multichannel merchants in the Chicago area that offer store pickup of online orders, and placed and picked up orders from two stores in each chain. The firm surveyed 23 retailers last year, suggesting a slow adoption rate for in-store pickup programs. Among the factors holding back such programs are the challenges of integrating inventory and web systems, and the fact that some stores lack the space to store products being held for customers, Freedman said.
"Continuing to get people into stores is going to be a bigger challenge, especially with the price of gas," she said. "Anything a merchant can do to ensure in-store traffic is critical. The bonus of customers seeing your assortment and purchasing incremental merchandise is a fringe benefit of any merchant's investment."
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