Should You Offer The Retail Service Customers Are Clamoring For?

in-store pickup

The world of retail is changing rapidly. One of the new services gaining traction is the ability to order products online and then pick them up in the physical store.

According to the 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey by Boston Retail Partners, some 41 percent of retailers already offer this ability to their customers. And 78 percent of those who don’t currently offer this service say they plan to add it within the next three years.

For customers, buying online and picking up in-store offers some advantages that may not have first be readily know. For example, instead of driving to a store only to find the product they want is out of stock or not available in their desired size or color, shoppers can place an order online and pick it up typically within 24 to 48 hours.

Buying online using in-store pickup also offers a way to get around shipping charges for online purchases. Most retailers do not charge a fee if merchandise is picked up in store. Big retailers such as J.C. Penney, Target and Kohl’s are already offering this service. So should you?

Ideas for Customer Convenience Offerings

Are you already set up to conduct eCommerce? If not, adding eCommerce to an existing brick-and-mortar store can be quite simple. Just make sure the shopping cart solution that you choose offers the ability to buy online and pick up in-store. Talk to your eCommerce provider about making this happen.

You don’t have to offer everything you sell in-store online, either. Consider featuring your most popular products, seasonal products, or additional sizes and colors of products beyond what you can stock in-store. This offers you the ability to capture customers who might otherwise leave your store empty-handed.

Big companies such as Target are able to offer next day or same-day in-store pickup because they have fulfillment centers widely available across the country. For small businesses, this may not be so easy. Be sure to let customers know the expected arrival date when they can pick up their order, and send them email or text alerts when the product arrives.

Part of making in-store pickup work is training your employees well. Make sure that employees know how to handle in-store pickup processes. If customers want to open the product, touch and feel it, or try it on in the store, develop a system for letting them do that. If the product isn’t what they expected, enabling them to return it right away makes their lives easier.

Does In-Store Pickup Sound Like Too Much Trouble?

That’s a legitimate point of view, especially if you don’t think your customers are likely to use in-store pickup. However, knowing that bigger companies are offering it, you still need to figure out how to stay competitive.

An alternative to in-store pickup would be using an inventory system that keeps up-to-the-minute track of your stock on hand.

Cloud-based inventory software that ties into your POS system is an ideal solution. This way, if a customer calls to ask about a product, your salespeople can check inventory, see if it’s there and put it on hold for them.

This can be just as convenient as online ordering, but it does take a little manpower to handle the incoming calls and search for the items. If your inventory software syncs with your eCommerce website, you can set it up so that customers can check inventory in your store from your website.

Both of these options — in-store pickup and real-time inventory updates — may take a little effort on your time. But it’s well worth it to keep your business competitive with the big dogs.

Mobile Shopper Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.