The onset of 2015 marked a huge change in shipping costs, and as a result retailers are struggling to find ways to maintain their bottom lines. As of Jan. 1, packages are now being evaluated by their “dimensional weight,” or volume, instead of determining price by weight alone. Experts say that the when combined with other annual rate hikes and surcharges, the resulting average rate increases will be as high as 30% or more.
Unfortunately, retailers are being forced to make sacrifices in the name of customer service in order to soften the blow. Some are raising free-shipping minimums, some are raising prices, and others are cutting free shipping altogether. But for the 68% of retailers already offering free delivery, cutting free shipping would take a serious toll on customer satisfaction.
Smart retailers are looking into alternative fulfillment options, and what better way to save on shipping than to not pay for it at all. The simple solution is to encourage consumers to buy online and pick up in store. Here is why retailers that have adopted a “clicks to bricks” solution are winning customers and saving money:
- In-store pickup improves your bottom line. The reality is that “free” shipping is never free … somebody has to pay for it. Fortunately for retailers, when offered, in-store pickup is chosen by more than 30% of consumers. You don’t even have to offer an incentive; they simply chose to come get what they bought. Retailers who promote in-store pickup can improve these numbers even further. Offering incentives for consumers to come into the store instead of having their items shipped could increase online sales while reducing shipping costs. This is a multifaceted win for retailers, as they spend less on “Free Shipping” incentives and many consumers will buy more when they come to the store.
- Sales associates are informed and can encourage incremental purchases. What is the largest cost for almost every retailer? Employee labor. You hire them, train them and then set them free to improve the shopping experience of your customers. Why not empower and leverage those assets to their fullest potential? The only way to let your sales associates help your online to in-store customers is to inform them of what occurred online and encourage the ideal in-store interaction. If done correctly, chances are that people will actually leave with more than they came in expecting to buy. In fact, according to a recent POPcodes survey, two out of every three consumers shop for additional items when picking up purchases in store, and more than one in three will actually buy something. So instead of raising prices to accommodate for expensive shipping costs, keep your prices the same, send your customer to the store, and encourage them to buy more while they are there.
- The return process is simplified. In the same POPcodes survey, 57% of customers say they pick up their purchases in store to simplify the return process. The hassle of returning products, buyer’s remorse for the items still not returned, and the recent rise in shipping costs only exacerbates an aversion to online returns. The physical store alleviates this stress; no paperwork, no post offices, no waiting for reimbursement. Retailers stand to benefit too — an in-store return is a potential new sale, while an online return is essentially a dead-net cost. It is much easier to encourage a customer to replace their return when you’re face-to-face.
- In-store experiences beget customer loyalty to the retailer and the brands they sell. Retailers know that customer loyalty is the lifeblood of the industry. With the evolution of omnichannel shopping, expectations have changed dramatically, and retailers must meet those expectations or risk losing customers to their competitors. The relentless price pressures from online-only merchants makes consumers who desire home delivery for specific products extremely price sensitive. Retailers that are most successful in building loyalty to their brand create strong emotional connections with consumers through brand messages and experiences. Intimacy, inclusivity, and trust all beget customer loyalty and are achieved when customers can connect with a real person — a delivery driver is a poor substitute for a well-trained sales associate.
The virtues of the physical store extend well beyond shipping costs, and now that prices have increased retailers are more likely to take heed of that. Many already have — Macy’s in-store pickup solution has earned a nearly $1 billion boost in sales, and other big names, including Sears, Kmart, and Staples, now offer in-store pickup as well. It’s obvious that customers also see the value in this fulfillment option — 97% (in the POPcodes survey) of those who have used it say they would use it again. It’s time for more retailers to tap into the “clicks to bricks” model, not only for the customer’s benefit, but for their own.
Gregg Aamoth is the co-founder of POPcodes, a cloud-based retail redemption solution enables omnichannel retailers to quickly give consumers a seamless and secure way to buy online and pick up in store. Prior to launching POPcodes Gregg spent more than 20 years in retail and financial systems leadership, including 10 years as VP of customer marketing systems and privacy for Macy’s Inc.