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MultiChannel Merchant

What’s emerging as the hottest trend in online retail today? The store. Large retailers rolling out new in-store pickup options to bridge the online and offline world – and in doing so, they’re generating big waves with both consumers and the media.

With Walmart offering in-store pickup via self-serve lockers, and Gap trying out “reserve-in-store”, it’s clear retailers are still trying to figure out the best method to bridge the online-offline experience. Other retailers have launched “pay-with-cash”, “pickup today”, and “find in-store” options.

In-store pickup is popular among consumers. Some 43% of US online adults currently use this feature, according to a report from Forrester Research. And it’s already helping retailers generate more revenues. According to the Forrester report, one-third of consumers who go to a store to collect their goods end up buying additional products when in-store. Huge.

So, how can retailers optimize the in-store fulfillment process to improve customer loyalty, boost average order value, and increase overall revenues? Here are three proven strategies retailers can use to nail the newest omnichannel shopping trend.

Deliver a great customer experience

When rolling out in-store pickup, it’s tempting to think of the program as purely about fulfillment. While facilitating purchases are always important to a retailer’s bottom line, the real goal of ship-to-store should be delivering a better customer experience, not just notching up more sales. Ensuring that every purchase fulfillment option delivers the best possible customer experience results in far more than just completed sales; when done right, in-store shipment options generate long-term customer value.

To deliver an optimal customer experience with in-store pickup options, ensure the experience is as fluid as possible. Can customers easily find the pickup location upon entering the store? Is the process fast and efficient? Do you offer several payment methods, such as pay-ahead online or in-store payment, and is it easy for customers to checkout? Do employees ensure customers receive the right items, ask if they need any further assistance, or offer relevant upsell options?

Don’t forget to ask customers about their experience with the service. A great way to capture customer feedback is via mobile when customers arrive in store. Place a QR code, short url or SMS trigger at the point-of-pickup that leads to a short digital comment card where customers can leave immediate feedback on the pickup process.

You can also send customers emails a day or two after pickup with links to opt-in solicitations for feedback. Some of the comment card questions you want to ask include whether customers could find the pickup location easily, if they received the right items, and how long they waited to get their products. In all feedback loops, always include a dialog box for free-form comments. This is where the golden nuggets come from.

Augment in-store visits

When customers show up in store to pick up their items, don’t just hand them the goods and whisk them out the door! As noted above, one of the biggest benefits of offering in-store fulfillment programs is the chance to upsell customers.

According to Forrester Research, customers who use in-store pickup services are more prone to use coupons than average shoppers, and are also more inclined to use mobile devices to complete purchases. As a retailer, give these customers what they want; send them instantly-redeemable mobile coupons when they arrive to pick up their products.

Of course, retailers can also use other methods to encourage customers to ‘stick around’ and browse for other products. Use signage at the pick-up area to promote discounts and deals, and have sales staff recommends related products or mention special offers. Consider offering shoppers who use in-store pickup options instant incentives, such as $10 off an in-store purchase of $100 or more.

Measure, optimize, and repeat

In-store fulfillment systems are still new, and you can’t be expected to launch a 100% perfect program right out of the gate. To continually improve and deliver a better customer experience, you have to measure every aspect of the program to see what’s working and what’s not. Use analytics to get an accurate picture of how the program is working on many levels – customer satisfaction, upsell, average order value, repeat purchases, overall sales, etc. Measure both structured data, such as purchase and product information, and unstructured data, such as customer feedback via online feedback loops, social media, and digital comment cards.

Avoid measuring different parts of the program in a vacuum. Instead, compare purchase, customer, and product analytics in one place to see how in-store fulfillment programs impact overall marketing and merchandising programs, as well how the programs impact bottom-line sales.

Don’t forget to measure how the program impacts upsell and impulse purchases. Then, conduct analytics on individual customer, store, national, and global levels to see how the program is impacting the business as a whole. By pegging program analytics to transaction IDs, store IDs, and customers’ past purchases, you can collect valuable insights into how the program is working on every level.

Customers have spoken; they want to order online and pickup in store. To get the most out of the newest omnichannel shopping trend, retailers should focus not only on making it easy to pickup purchases in store, but also on delivering an exceptional customer experience from first click through to final sale.

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