As we lead up to NRF 2015, this week Supply Chain Nation turns its focus to trends impacting digital retail. Follow along each day this week as we explore a new topic related to retailing in the digital age.
Buy online and return in the store
Buy online from a kiosk within the store
Buy in-store and have it fulfilled by the ecommerce DC
Buy online and have the store fulfill the order
Who gets the credit for the sale in these situations, and who takes the hit for the return?
An increasing number of stores are excepting online returns, and if you don’t, you should. It is an expectation of your customers. Customers do not think in channels. It is all the same to them. If you try to tell them differently, or try to act like they are different, they will be offended, and the trust in your brand will experience a little erosion.
Online return in the store is a service that benefits both the customer and the retailer. The customer saves return shipping costs and hassle, and the retailer has a shot at another sale.
Have you noticed the slight tone of disgust in the sales associate that has to process that online return? Is it taking away from her ability to score the next sale and reach her goal for the day? Will the return count against her and against the store? If you are separating your brick-and-mortar financials from your ecommerce business, these can become contentious conversations and can cause unnecessary and unhealthy angst among your people.
Are you unconsciously pitting your business units against each other? When you are all in the game, playing for the same team, looking for the same win, does this make sense?
The solution to this dilemma is found back in the planning stage. Sales, turns, markdowns, and margin goals should be shared across the company. Inventory should be shared across the enterprise. It is not mine, it is not yours –it is ours, and it is our collective responsibility to get it out of the warehouse and out of the store into the hands of our customers as quickly and profitably as we can.
However, if the situation is not that easy to solve, and your planning metrics are separate and your inventory is separate, and the reporting structure is siloed, the store can still capitalize on the moment by turning the return into a selling opportunity. Train store associates to search for this type of opportunity. If the customer would have returned it straight to the warehouse without the store interaction, the store would not have had the opportunity to turn a return into an exchange, and an exchange into an upsell and an upsell into a loyal returning customer. Look at each touch point with a customer as another opportunity to showcase your expert service and product knowledge.
The entire transaction must be seamless and quick. The customer should not have to wait for you to find the purchase, for you to verify the price, for you to figure out what promotions were applied. Seamless experiences for your customer is what you are after. The most effective transaction is the one where the customer does not even notice the technology that was involved. It just happens.
Exemplary customer service is the ticket to brick-and-mortar success, and that online return just gave your store another opportunity to prove it.
To read other entries in this Digital Retail blog series, click here.