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Keep customers happy by allowing instore ordering

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What do customers want? The ability to order out-of-stock goods in the store, it seems, is their biggest priority.

Shoppers, according to Ipsos MORI research carried out for Sterling Commerce, want to be able to complete their order in the shop, even if the product they are looking for isn’t available at the time. Online, the priority is to know whether stock is available.

More than half (54%) of shoppers responding to the survey said it was very important to them that shop assistants could ‘save the sale’ by always finding the product they want at another store, in order to reserve or order for home delivery. That compares to 49% among French shoppers and 36% in Germany.

Half of British shoppers said it was very important to have more staff with product knowledge in store, compared to 49% in France and 44% in Germany.

Sixty-four per cent of online shoppers rate highly the importance of having accurate stock availability (58% in France, 31% in Germany).

“Many retailers believe they are multichannel but fail to invest in their most important channel, the store,” said David Hogg, retail industry executive at Sterling Commerce. “Lack of internal inventory visibility means they cannot easily save the save of customers who still experience a stubborn percentage of out of stocks.”

Cross-channel shoppers spend more, he said, but they’re used to choosing from wide online product choice. “This poses a stock visibility challenge that almost no European retailer has successfully addressed to date.”

One answer, he said, was to link e-commerce to instore activity. “Consumers often view the call centre as an order capture and issue resolution channel, rather than a sales channel, and this can be extended to stores.”

1,046 British adults aged 16 to 64 were interviewed for the research between April 9 and 11. In France, the figure was 1,049 and in Germany 1,032. The figure was weighted to the offline population.

Our view: This research essentially boils down to one insight– shoppers want to be able to buy the goods that they like, in the colour they like and in the size they like. So far, so straightforward.

Yet all too often this straightforward desire is not met. Instead, shoppers are gently encouraged to want something else. That’s not really the point, well-informed customers do now know exactly what it is they want to buy, and where they can get it if one shop fails them.

Giving staff the tools to know where stock is will surely be key for retailers going forward, for those that perform in this area will keep their customers loyal.

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