American consumers need flexible shopping options

By Alexandra Frith

It’s a fact of retail life: out of stocks can cost retailers not only one sale, but also future sales. Once the customer is disappointed, he or she may never walk through that business’s doors again. The sale is gone, along with any store loyalty. That’s why it’s critical for retailers to implement omnichannel strategies that let customers shop for and take delivery of products in the ways that fit their lifestyles.

According to a new report from AGC Partners, “The Retail Industry Disruptors: Specialty Online Retailers and Marketplaces Take Center Stage,” most shoppers welcome technology that lets them take advantage of retailers’ omnichannel strategies.

A solid omnichannel strategy lets shoppers buy online, buy in-store or do a combination: buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS), for example. Increasingly, customers are “taking control” of their shopping experiences. They are well researched, both in terms of what products they want to buy, and where they want to purchase. They are “smart shoppers,” who more than ever before are able to dictate how they want to purchase merchandise.

Eric Bergstrom, Director of Retail for Burton Snowboards, agrees: “In today’s retail environment you need to be available to every customer however they want to shop. You have to make options like Buy Online, Pickup In Store available and let the customer choose.”

The report notes that now, shoppers are looking for what seems to be the inverse of BOPIS: They want in-store mobile technology that allows them to order a product from a retailer’s e-commerce site, if it is not in stock at the store. 64 percent of consumers responded that they are more likely to frequent stores that offer such technology, and 73 percent said that such an offering provides a “superior” customer experience.

Retail is an enormous, $22 trillion market worldwide. Right now, online retail only makes up 7.4 percent of that total. Retailers that can “rescue” an order that cannot be filled at a physical location by routing it to its e-commerce site, will increase revenue and build customer appreciation. In addition, online sales will grow. A sale is a sale, no matter where it originates or to where it is delivered. As long as a retailer provides the channel, customers have no reason to seek the item elsewhere.

One US sporting goods and apparel retailer, Massey’s Outfitters, has this at the core of their strategy. They have built a connected network on the Retail Pro retail management platform that allows them to save e-commerce sales when a product is out of stock via a drop-ship integration.

Gerry Fullington, General Manager for Massey’s, comments, “We're confident in our ability to respond across channels to our customers’ needs with Retail Pro, to give them what they really want.”

Stan Shotkus, owner of the lifestyle chain Lyn Evans, uses Retail Pro software on mobile devices to create an endless aisle for their customers, linking the diverse inventory at every location to give shoppers more options than can be carried at a physical store location.

“Our goal is to combine the in-store personal shopping experience with the convenience of online shopping, with help just a phone call away. We serve our customers when and how they want to be serviced,” Shotkus told us.

Still, a number of hurdles need to be overcome, according to AGC:

  • Only 33 percent of all U.S. retailers can order out-of-stock products via a mobile device
  • Only 26 percent offer free Wi-Fi
  • Only 12 percent can have customers scan products and have them shipped home

That represents an enormous opportunity for retailers and their technology partners. Increased shopping on mobile devices is likely to drive overall growth in online retail. And many shoppers, particularly millennials, enjoy using smartphones and other mobile devices to shop: Of 2,000 millennials surveyed by Coupofy, 28 percent reported preferring to shop on their smartphone than on their computers. Therefore, by implementing solutions that allow customers to be flexible in how they shop, where they take delivery – and even make returns – retailers can grow revenue as well as customer satisfaction.

Alexandra Frith, Customer Engagement at Retail Pro International


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