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Ways to stop your customers leaking online

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It’s easy to lose customers as they move between different channels of a multichannel business, suggests a new white paper from GSI Commerce.

Out-of-stock items in store are particularly likely to cost retailers a sale, says the company’s 2010 Multichannel Retail Report. But put into play a series of opportunities for the customer and there’s no need to lose a sale because you’re out of stock in store.

The report found that if shoppers weren’t able to buy the item they were looking for in the high street, the online response of 69% of respondents would be to look on other retailers’ websites to find it and compare prices.

Some 53% said they would put the product into a price comparison engine, while 41% would type the products details into a search engine. Only 40% would simply visit the website of the retailer whose shop they originally visited.

However, given the opportunity in-store to order out-of-stock goods via the online channel, 81% said they would do so. The report said: “The data points to the fact that if a retailer has an item that is out-of-stock and does not offer its customers any other purchasing options while they are in store there is a very good chance it will lose the sale to its competition online.”

Meanwhile, 57% of consumers said they’d be more likely to order a last-minute item if they had the opportunity of collecting it instore. The biggest single issue putting consumers off buying online, the study found, was, for 76% of respondents, a long or expensive refunds or returns process.

It’s important therefore, suggests GSI, to have “ an efficient process for letting consumers return goods purchased online in your high street stores,” adding, “If it’s very convenient for customers with an unwanted product to pop into your store and have immediate access to an alternative, it’s far more likely they will ‘exchange; as opposed to online where they are most likely to demand a refund.”

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