Keep it Simple: How Retail Can Retain Convenience
I don’t know about you, but I love convenience. I love ordering my groceries from Whole Foods while at the office, and have them waiting on my doorstep by the time I arrive home. Recently, I’m loving being able to pick up online purchases in-store. I order shoes on Nordstrom.com, wait a couple of days, and then pick them up, when it works best for me. If any brand or company offers a way to bring more convenience to my life, you can guarantee I’ll be first in line to give it a whirl.
In the past few months, one thing I’ve noticed is that several of my favorite stores have gone through a dramatic and noticeable resurgence to become more convenient. A result of next-day delivery efforts led by Amazon.com and Walmart, these retailers are offering all sorts of options to emphasize the in-store convenience factor, with the goal of bolstering sales and building repeat customer visits. While nearly 90 percent of retail sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shared earlier this year, in order to emphasize in-store convenience, retailers must look for more efficient ways to automate activities without absorbing higher costs and maintaining a price competitive mind-set.
Brick-and-mortar retailers, take notice, here are five options retailers are offering to boost convenience.
One way brick-and-mortar stores can highlight the convenience they offer is by providing on-demand delivery, free shipping and local drop-off points. A recent CommonSense Robotics survey showed that consumers prefer same-day delivery over in-store pickup by a four to one margin.
Target is one brick-and-mortar retailer making same-day grocery delivery its primary focus. Walmart is another retailer expanding its grocery delivery services by offering a membership program. Customers can either pay an annual fee of $98 or $12.95 per month, instead of paying the usual $9.99 per delivery fee. These options give Walmart a better way to compete with rival services Amazon Prime Now/Whole Foods, Instacart. By evaluating opportunities to appeal to local customers, retailers can help differentiate their brand, draw repeat customers, and grow incremental sales.
2. Subscription Services
The rise of the subscription economy has allowed consumers to enjoy new products at home and automate repeat purchases. However, subscription models are making their way to traditional retailers. Last year, Birchbox partnered with Walgreens to build retail experiences within select stores. And more recently, Urban Outfitters announced that it would be launching a rental service, in addition to its e-commerce and physical footprint. In both cases, brands like Walgreens and Urban Outfitters are borrowing tactics from successful direct-to-consumer brands to engage local audiences and create an in-store experience that provides shoppers with the instant joy associated with making a new or repeat purchase that can be used, worn or gifted in that moment.
Seamless and easy payment options is the cornerstone to a positive shopper experience. An RIS News survey shows that consumers prefer "grab and go" technology, using smartphones to self-checkout. Fifty-nine percent say they'd like to use it, and 9 percent had used it. Additionally, payment kiosks are movable and can be used by retailers to create "quick-sale" displays for instant easy payment options in seasonal gifting aisles or for limited time-only items.
4. Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store
Many well-known retailers are offering buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), including Nordstrom, Old Navy, Target and Home Depot, to name a few. With the aim of creating a seamless shopping experience, in-store pickup tech has made one of the most transformational impacts within retail in the past few years. According to a CFI Group study, 78 percent of consumers consider in-store pickup of online orders either important or very important, proving that the benefits of in-store pickup are clear. Fifty-seven percent of online shoppers have used this service within the last year, with retailers seeing BOPIS orders accounting for 21 percent to 30 percent of their revenue.
5. Loyalty Programs
With so many choices for consumers today, it’s important brands give some extra attention to loyal customers. The overriding goal of any customer loyalty program is to build a strong, lasting relationship with the individual, help win over first-time guests, drive sales and, ultimately, create lifetime value. Additionally, loyalty programs are relatively low cost for the company. Outside of the retail space, travel companies have mastered providing loyalty programs that make life super convenient when traveling for work or pleasure. Since I use Delta every time I travel, as it now knows me as a loyal customer, whenever I fly or rent a car everything is seamless..
Looking at all of the tactics and strategies retailers are using today, the overall goal is to make customers more loyal and build repeat customer visits while being mindful of rising costs. Whether it’s through delivery, subscription services, self-checkout options, BOPIS, or loyalty programs, all of these convenient options keep customers coming back for more.
In the future, I think new retail technologies (e.g., augmented reality, virtual reality, and personalization enabled by tech) will be the next big thing. And if this new technology offers even more convenience to my life, I’m in!
Alicia DiStefano is vice president, head of industry, retail and restaurant at GroundTruth, a global location platform that sees two out of three smartphone users in the U.S. and more than 30 billion physical visits annually across 21 countries.