Retailers are facing major attitudinal challenges in sustaining customer loyalty between channels according to the 2010 Multichannel Retail Report from GSI Commerce.
When consumers were asked what their typical online response would be to finding that an item was out of stock on the high street, the vast majority (69%) claimed they would visit other brand's websites to compare prices on the same product. 53% would enter the product's details into a price comparison engine and 41% say they would simply type the product details into a search engine and review the results. Just four in ten (40%) say they would simply visit the website of the retailer whose shop they had originally visited.
The survey also uncovered an easy way for retailers to convert this seemingly negative customer experiences into sales. 81% of consumers claim that, if given the option, they would be likely or very likely to order an out of stock item online while still in the store.
The data also indicated that there is a major potential for multichannel retailers to optimise and make savings in returns management. When consumers were asked what single biggest issue would put them off from making a repeat purchase online, 76% of consumers cited an expensive or lengthy online returns or refund procedure.
"If you find yourself out of stock and leave your customers to walk out the door and search the internet, there's a very good chance that you'll lose the sale to your competition," says GSI Commerce's Steve Davis. "In a sense, having multiple channels gives retailers a fantastic opportunity to extend their shelf space on the high street. If you offer a line of five items in-store, you should make sure you also offer 20 items via your online inventory so that, should you run out on the high street, either the customer or staff can still purchase and order the product on-the-spot."
"The cost of retail real estate is so high that it's vital that retailer make the most every single high street interaction," he added. "By expanding the range available to the customer, multichannel retailers can simultaneously expand both their service and sales opportunities. In many cases it is even possible to reduce in-store inventory while growing customers' selection."
"If it's easy for a customer with an unwanted product to pop into a store and have immediate access to an alternative, it's far more likely that they will exchange," he added. "Online they will always be most likely to demand a refund. By encouraging customers to come in-store, not only will their experience be improved but the retailer will avoid all the post and packaging costs of returns that it would either have to pick-up itself or, far worse, ask the customer to pay."