Communicating Product Availability by Channel, Part Three
Hello and welcome to the third of three posts examining how multichannel retailers can use their websites to support customers trying to complete common tasks such as researching and purchasing products across multiple channels.
Part one provided some data emphasizing how critical it is to satisfy customers on your website due to its impact on their satisfaction in other channels. In particular, those who wish to use the website to determine what’s available in their local store will expect detailed information about inventory such as what’s currently in stock offline facilitated via Find In Store, a functionality explored in my part two.
This post will explore a second way to connect customers with inventory in local stores—the Pick Up in Store option. This service builds on the effectiveness of the Find In Store function by informing customers whether items are available in their local store as well as offering the ability to reserve them. This ensures the item will be there when the customer picks it up. In many instances, there is also an option to pay for the products online, saving them the hassle of having to do so when they pick them up.
A good example is BestBuy.com. Customers can reserve items for “Store Pickup” at multiple points during the shopping experience. They can first check shipping and availability by clicking “Check Stores” and entering a zip code where they, in turn, receive a list of nearby stores carrying the desired item(s). Customers then have the option to either designate the item for “Store Pickup” before placing it in their cart or at any time after, during the checkout process.
Offering Pick Up In Store selections throughout the duration of the shopping experience gives customers the flexibility to change their mind about how they want to get their purchase. This is especially useful for shoppers under time constraints due to holidays, vacations, work, etc. as they might need some items right away and others at a later time. Fortunately, Best Buy allows customers to check out with both “Store Pickup” items and items to be shipped in the same cart. This is especially convenient during the holidays for shoppers who are buying gifts for a variety of recipients —they can pay for all items in one order, ship some to recipients complete with gift options and pick up other items in store as needed.
Lowes.com takes a little bit of a different approach by prompting customers to enter their zip code as soon as they enter the site. This allows the customer to immediately see item availability and pricing for items in their local stores, and gives them a chance to designate items for “Store Pickup.” Once they choose “Store Pickup” on the product page, they can also see the exact number of items available in stores near them. It’s also important to note that the site only asks for customers’ zip code once and then tailors the experience to their local stores. This reduces the effort required to make use of this functionality resulting in a more intuitive experience.
To improve the customer experience, it is critical to inform customers of their fulfillment options. ToysRUs.com achieves this with a static element emphasizing their “Free Shipping” and “Store Pick Up” programs on every page of the site. Increasing customer awareness about all the options available to them ensures they can choose the method that works best for them. And this can have a major impact on customer satisfaction, which is important in predicting the future behaviors of your customer.
Here are some general guidelines for both communicating cross-channel product availability and executing Find in Store/Pick Up in Store services effectively:
- Let Customers Know which Channels Carry Products. It is critical that this is done on both product listing and detail pages. Common approaches include messaging, filters, as well as calls to action such as Find In Store or Pick Up in Store buttons. Setting expectations about where customers can find products will help them make decisions about which channel they want to use to purchase or continue researching.
- Be Honest. Let customers know why there is a discrepancy between what they see on your site and what they see in other channels. Including a static element that addresses this on the site and/or updating FAQs or Customer Service information to answer common questions about differences in product selection across channels will ease customer confusion and frustration.
- Set Expectations about the Limitations of Find In Store Look-ups. While items may be available in the store at the time users are searching the website, let them know that this does not guarantee the item will be at the store when they get there.
- Keep Pick Up in Store Service Simple and Flexible. Don’t make your customers enter in their zip code multiple times in order to see availability information for products. If you capture this information once, tailor the entire experience so that they are always seeing availability information for their local store(s). In addition, allowing customers to check out with a mixed cart of Pick Up in Store and items that will be shipped gives them the flexibility to choose the fulfillment method that works best for each item and the convenience of paying for everything together if they wish.
- Market Your Site’s Find In Store or Pick Up In Store service. Including a static element on each page of the site, especially listing and detail pages, will ensure customers know about these functionalities and make use of them more effectively.