Six Ways Brick-And-Mortar Stores Can Combat Online Competition – Part 1

Chris DiMuro  |  Account Director

March 3, 2017

Online and mobile channels have created extremely connected consumers. Consumers now demand more from retailers who want to earn and keep their loyalty, no matter the channel or touch point. They want convenience, flexibility and assurance, all at a good price. They have a wealth of information at their fingertips and can easily research their purchases for availability and price. This research could drive them online or in to a store. The omnichannel touch points – in-store, online, mobile, phone, mobile apps – need to be seamless and built around their needs.

The brick-and-mortar store is still a critical part of the omnichannel mix. Consumers love to see, touch and feel the products they are buying. According to PwC’s Annual Global Total Retail Consumer Survey, the physical store remains the primary retail touch point for consumers: 70% of shoppers surveyed purchased in-store once a month vs. just 54% purchasing online in that same time frame.

Nonetheless, there is an erosion of foot traffic at the retail stores. The good news is, there are things you can do about that.

1. In-store Wi-Fi

More and more customers expect Wi-Fi during their in-store visits to enhance their shopping experience. Giving them access to free Wi-Fi does not drive them to purchase online, but it strengthens their connection to the store. Most customers are visiting websites for additional product information and reviews. Twenty-eight percent of retailers report increased customer loyalty due to in-store Wi-Fi service (Study by EarthLink Holding Corp., AirTight Networks and IHL Group study).

2. Inventory visibility and in-store pickup

Best Buy, Lowe’s, Toys“R”Us, and Target are a few of the retailers that provide in-store inventory information online. Customers are more likely to visit a store if they know the inventory is available (71% of consumers find the ability to view in-store inventory very important or important, according to “Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap,” conducted by Forrester Consulting). The cross-channel experience needs to be seamless. When the customer gets to the store, they expect the product to be there.

Connected very closely to providing in-store inventory information is allowing in-store merchandise pickup. Only a third of retailers offer this service, even though half of all consumers surveyed noted in-store pickup as an important feature for shopping online. (Forrester Consulting, “Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap”).

In-store pickup is preferred by customers who want to avoid online shipping costs (47% of customers) or who prefer to receive the product the same day it’s purchased (25% of customers).

3. Shipping options

The great shipping war has been waging for a while. Consumers expect low or free shipping as retailers fight for their business. Amazon started the battle with free shipping on orders over $25 (now $35). Target offers free shipping for orders over $25 (or free with a REDcard) to better compete with Amazon.

Today, some retailers are upping the ante with same-day shipping (Amazon and Google). Even Ace Hardware is getting into the mix. They have tested Ace Express Delivery in 33 markets. Customers can purchase an item and have it delivered for $5 if they are within five miles of the store (61% of their customers take advantage of this offer). Another option that is gaining traction: shipping from the store. The quicker delivery time for the consumer means reduced store markdowns and shipping costs.

Smart retailers realize the importance of the physical location. LL Bean is planning to double their store presence by 2020. They know how important it is to allow their customers to engage with the brand before they buy. Even Amazon and Google are adding the in-store experience to create a truly omnichannel model.

Stay tuned. Next week you’ll learn three more ways to drive more online shoppers in to your stores.

Chris DiMuro |  Account Director
Chris is an account director at Catalyst specializing in data-driven solutions, including campaign development, analytics and database development. She holds a BS in marketing from RIT. In her past life she worked at Eastman Kodak Company and JCPenney.

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