By stepping out of the office and into the stores, the e-tailing group captures unique insights into successful retail marketing and merchandising practices. In the fourth year of its Cross-Channel Shopping Study, the e-commerce consulting firm found that retailers are more dedicated to shop online/pickup in-store and are moving towards improvements in other cross-channel areas such as in-store web tie-ins, buy online/return in-store and online store locators.
Researchers for the e-tailing group spent time in stores and online with more than 50 chosen retailers and has found a number that float to the top as successful cross-channel marketers:
• In-store pickup stars include Nordstrom, Sears and Circuit City. A recent entrant into the in-store pickup arena, Nordstrom is testing buy online/pickup in-store in apparel, shoes, and cosmetics to roll-out to all merchandise categories by September 2008. The retailer boasts online inventory of 83,000 SKUs and pickup in 159 stores across 28 states. Sears has been offering in-store pickup since 2003 and guarantees that if the customer does not get their package within five minutes of the in-store request, they get a $5 gift card, 10 minutes/$10 card, etc. Circuit City reports that more than 50 percent of 2007 online shoppers picked up in-store
• Store associates lift sales. Sales associates can make or break the shopping experience. Those that are knowledgeable about the products and cross-channel opportunities for consumers will boost the bottom line. Retailers employing some of the best sales associates include: Apple, Bass Pro Shops, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Finish Line, Orvis, RadioShack and Ritz Camera. In each case the associate was friendly, eager to help and knowledgeable. In many cases shoppers were greeted at the door.
• Multi-media features improve web site rating. While store associates augment the shopper experience in the brick-and-mortar channel, interactive and educational features make the experience more enjoyable online. Orvis, Pottery Barn and pets.com are among the retailers cited by the e-tailing group for successful use of online video. Orvis, a fishing specialist, offers “Hook TV” as well as “The Beginner’s Corner” and a live chat feature. Pottery Barn provides design tips at “Stylehouse” and houses a video library showing products in use at home. Consumers who visit pets.com can view pet care videos and expert advice.
• A plethora of product information helps sell merchandise effectively at Patagonia, Ritz Camera and Williams-Sonoma. The key to providing a lot of product information is presenting it efficiently and in an easy-to-read format. Patagonia lists the essential item information clearly at the top of the product page and displays graphics to the left. Customers are able to opt for buying or saving the item mid-page. Ritz Camera incorporates tabbed sections to clearly delineate product features. Williams-Sonoma displays product information to the left of item photos and uses bulleted lists for simplification.
• Cross-channel marketing leaders are successful for a variety of reasons but in particular because they promote across all channels. Babies “R” Us provides online postings for in-store events, sign-up for the Birthday Club and access to job openings. Borders offers a cross-channel rewards program, book promotions, and promotes the online experience at in-store cash registers. Linens ‘N Things has an online gift registry, promotes shop LNT.com anytime and displays in-store signage promoting “as seen on TV” and “as advertised” in other channels.
Other stand-out retailers include: Apple, Barnes & Noble and Crate & Barrel for their online retail locators; and Petco, Brookstone, Sears and Target for their merchandising and mapping within locators.
In the report, the e-tailing group lays out statistics for key trends including in-store pickup, product research online and in-store, online product information availability, use and effectiveness of cross-promotions, retail locator rankings, online order process, merchandise checkout practices, and more.
For more information including a list of surveyed merchants or to order the report visit the e-tailing group's web site at: www.e-tailing.com