National retailers competing with Amazon have realized that the customer experience in brick-and-mortar stores must incorporate the ease of online shopping. Many stores such as Walmart, Staples, Best Buy and Target allow shoppers to purchase items on their websites and pick them up at local outlets with no shipping costs.
Retailers now use stores as fulfillment centers as a growing source of business in addition to traditional sales at their retail locations. If a specific store does not have an item in stock, customers can find it online and have it sent to the store within 24 hours in some cases. Retailers let customers reserve and pay for an item over the Internet and pick it up later in the day. These types of online shopping experiences combine the convenience of shopping from home and the comfort of being able to get merchandise that same day.
The beauty of store pick-up goes beyond at-home, 24-hour shopping convenience. Checkout lines on Black Friday become shorter as shoppers find better bargains online compared to in-store deals. Online promotions keep prices lower so brick-and-mortar locations can compete with less expensive items on Amazon. The online shopping experience within Walmart is even more favorable for shoppers considering the retail giant's Supercenters stay open 24 hours. That means customers can walk in at any time to pick up the goods they bought on Walmart.com.
If there are issues with any items, customers enjoy the convenience of returning them to a physical store rather than going through the hassle of packing them back into a box, shipping them and waiting for a response. Online stores may offer free shipping with no sales tax, but if a package is broken or includes the wrong item, the customer's recourse starts with calling a toll-free number rather than seeing a live person to get a refund immediately. The value of store pick-up to shoppers may in many cases neutralize the convenience of online shopping.
Some stores allow customers to view inventory currently on the shelves. Shoppers pick items they know are already in a store, pay for them online, and then pick up their merchandise later in the day at the outlet. Other retailers offer to ship items between stores for free for added convenience.
National retailers take advantage of logistics and shipping companies they are already using. To compete with online shopping juggernauts such as Amazon, stores rely on the huge volume of business shipping between brick-and-mortar locations giving packing companies an incentive to lower rates. Everyone wins in this scenario, and everyone stays busy as retail outlets become pack-and-ship locations in addition to places where people buy merchandise at registers. Retailers that adapt to the needs of shopper convenience win, and those that do not will lose revenue and market share.
Online shopping has revolutionized American consumerism thanks to the rise of Amazon, e-commerce and the Internet. However, brick-and-mortar stores have found allowing customers to purchase online and pick up in-store is a key way to compete and remain relevant in a world where every dollar shows up on quarterly revenue reports that make or break stock prices.
Photo courtesy of Random Retail at Flickr.com