When Online and Offline World Meet — E-Commerce Comes Alive (Again)

More and more people are using credit cards to buy products online, and then picking these items up at their local retailer. While this scenario is nothing new, there has been a recent surge in retailers who have jumped on the bandwagon in order to get business growing. I admit that calling this new approach to business a “bandwagon” is a bit unfair, as it sounds like I’m against it.

The truth is that it’s nice to see retailers do something that will not only promote more business for them, but also give consumers a break. Not only does this new approach help “the little guy”, but it also creates an opportunity for publishers to market credit cards to their online audience in order to increase their chances for higher conversions.

Buying Loyalty & Recognizing Opportunity
The retailers engaging in this practice are doing so to deter customers from doing research at their online store and then going to a competitor to purchase the item. Price point is definitely a factor in the customer’s decision making, but if that decision can be influenced by offering same day pick up at their local brick and mortar shop, then business can be positively increased. Most people do not want to wait for their items to arrive or pay for expensive shipping fees, so this tactic takes that variable out of the equation. From a publisher’s point of view, this new online shopping revival can be used as a perk to online audiences when offering credit cards.

Going Their Own Way
Nordstrom came up with an idea that is proving to be a huge success. They’ve allowed customers to look for in-stock items within individual stores via their website. This way, if an item is out of stock online, but available at a brick and mortar location, the customer can purchase the item from that store online and request to have it shipped to their home. Sears has added their own twist by offering a drive-through return service at some of their locations. Customers simply provide an e-receipt or printout, and the exchange is made. Fast, simple, and just what customers are expecting.

The Good The Bad & The Free
By convincing customers that buying online is a better option for them, retailers are inviting more sales. This is good for retailers and consumers, but especially good for credit card companies who stand to gain a great deal. John Thrailkill, a vice president of stores for the Container Store, noted that customers who buy online and opt for in-store pickup spend more than their typical in-store counterparts.

While this may be good for business, it has the potential to present the same pitfalls that any other overzealous shoppers might find themselves facing at the end of the month. At the same time, the free of charge in-store option is an offer most people can’t stand to pass up, especially for items that normally would not qualify for free shipping if simply purchased from the retailer’s online store.

E-Commerce has come a long way since the days those free AOL CDs would clutter our mailboxes, but it looks like customers are still hanging onto some old habits. There is no substitute for ‘free’, and no offer is made more enticing than adding a ‘get it today!’ sticker to it. Retailers seem to be coming back to the basics, when all customers needed to do was go into their store, look at an item, and pay for it without having to wait a second more or a worry about a hefty shipping charge.

Photo Credit: LSE Library via Flickr.com

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