Former Macy’s Exec Hones In On The Need For Buy Online, Pickup In-Store

As retailers seek to interact with consumers through all possible channels, one area they must heavily focus on is getting the final product to the customer efficiently.

It is apparent that industry players understand that they need to better build this link to the consumer; 71% of retail and consumer goods CEOs say that omnichannel fulfillment is a top or high priority, according to a survey from PwC.

Gregg Aamoth, CEO and Co-Founder of omnichannel solution provider POPcodes and a former VP of Customer Marketing Systems and Privacy at Macy’s, is a heavy proponent of the buy online, pickup in-store trend and believes this model creates the most seamless shopping experience across all channels. The model also is known to strip down the hassle of pricing, as 86% of consumers who order products online and pick them up in the store want to avoid shipping fees, according to a POPcodes survey.
In the below Q&A, Aamoth details the buy online, in-store pickup process, and explains why it provides an added convenience that other delivery models do not.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How would you describe the buy online, in-store pickup process from the consumers’ perspective?

Aamoth: It’s pretty common these days for merchants to try understand what their consumers’ paths and influencers are. Buy online, pickup in-store is a new opportunity in the path-to-purchase.

As retailers recognize that consumers are spending a lot of time online learning about products and services before they get into the store, they identify that if they engage with the consumer and give them the flexibility to choose how they want to complete their transaction, consumers respond. If consumers live in a household where there’s nobody home during the day or an area where package delivery is not as convenient as desired, their decision process stops online as soon as they get to the cost or time of shipping.

When a merchant opens up the opportunity for the consumer to put something on their wish list, make a reservation or actually make a purchase online, a lot of consumers who have done their product evaluation are willing to pull the trigger and take that next step if they have the option to go into the store and pick up the item.

RTP: What should retailers take note of before implementing buy online, pickup in-store?

Aamoth: Retailers have to realize that all consumers are not the same. Not everybody that buys online and picks up in-store is a grab-and-go customer, yet the model for buy online, pickup in-store for most retailers is specifically tailored to that grab-and-go experience.

For example, Sears and a few grocery retailers have implemented pickup methods where you don’t even have to go into the store. You can buy online and your purchase is delivered to your vehicle. For a subset of consumers, that’s a valuable opportunity, but others are very willing to go into the store and talk to a sales associate or get a great deal by picking that product off the shelf. If merchants expand the options to support those different scenarios, they can more easily implement shopping online and picking up in-store even when store operations aren’t yet ready for off-the-shelf orders.

RTP: What are the major benefits of this delivery model?

Aamoth: When retailers open up options, they create opportunities for consumers to decide what works best for them. If the consumer, in the end, wants the product to ship to their home, then you’re talking about a logistics challenge. Whether you fulfill from a warehouse or a store location, you have to have a very robust logistics system to ensure that you’re servicing the customer and giving them the product they wanted in the quickest, most convenient way, and that you’re cost- and resource-effective in doing that.

If the retailer gave an incentive saying “buy this product when you’re online, and by the way, if you come into this store to pick it up, we’ll give you the cost of free shipping as an in-store credit,” a lot of consumers would willingly and happily accept that. Then the merchant has a chance to engage with the customer.

Think about all of the pureplay e-Commerce retailers opening their own stores. They realize that a physical store presence is a large part of getting to the level of customer engagement that they desire.

If you can drive the customer to the store and you know what she wants before she gets there, then you have a pretty good idea of when she’ll buy and pick up based on purchase history. You can be prepared to service the customer better, in a way that creates more engagement and potentially brings them back for future purchases.

RTP: If you were to advise companies on best practices, what would you tell them?

Aamoth: The first thing in understanding your customer is being able to identify them and their purchase and non-purchase behaviors. The easiest way to identify a consumer is to have them activate a profile or make a purchase online. If I’m an omnichannel retailer and as much as 10% of my consumers’ purchase activity is online, I’ll immediately know that portion of my customer base because of the nature of online transactions.

If I create an incentive for my in-store shoppers to interact online before they come into the store, I can dramatically increase the number of customers that I can recognize. That has long lasting value for the retailer, and it benefits the consumer, as well. They’re very used to going online and providing a certain amount of information as they complete a transaction. When you do that in a model that is intended to move them from online to in-store, not only do I recognize them online, I can carry that recognition in the in-store environment.

Even if consumers don’t make a purchase online, they may have opted into email or created an online account. There’s a lot of knowledge and helpful information that gets generated by default in an online environment. That information could be made available to store associates with the consumer’s consent, ideally with the consumer actually bringing that information up.

When you gather this information behind the scenes secretively and try to figure it out without customer participation, it comes off as creepy. But when you do it with customer involvement and let them initiate the process when they enter the store, it goes from being creepy to a customer engagement factor.

If you give the consumer the opportunity to retrieve the information that they got online when they’re in the store, ideally on the store’s own systems, then the consumer can say, “I was online. I was looking at these products. Here are the details of everything I looked at,” and the store associate can pick up where they left off online and then service that customer better.

It’s really just an intentional and structured movement of the customer from one store to another — the virtual store to the physical store.