Setting My Sights on Site-to-Store

Our blog has looked at the advantages of offering a site-to-store shipping or pickup option before. Back in July we discussed cross channel retail enabling consumers a consistent experience across offline and online channels as well as the marvel of being able to receive items in store within hours.  Last week, we reported on the centrality of free shipping to consumers as the #1 decision making criterion when shopping online.

Offline retailers can leverage their brick and mortar to offer shipping that’s cheaper (or free!) and faster over retailers that are exclusively online. Walmart, for example, has been offering free ship-to-store and even testing a drive through window for pick up in one of its markets as reported by the WSJ.

Sears has also recognized the value of cross channel shopping and has added the free pickup-in-store option for its shoppers. While not all products are eligible for in-store-pickup, the retailer is now offering consumers a $5 coupon if they don’t get their pickup-in-store item within 5 minutes of arriving at the pickup desk.

JCPenney provides a ship-to-store option for many products, but not all, at a discounted rate (50-75% of ship-to-home prices).

I wanted to see how each of these retailers’ site-to-store option faired over the 2009 holiday season, keeping in mind the varying levels of the feature for each retailer. Here’s the percentage of shoppers who reached the site-to-store option out of total monthly visitors to each site:

While it’s a given that Walmart’s traffic base is larger, what’s telling is that shoppers flocked to Walmart’s free ship-to-store option at higher rates than JCPenney’s and Sears’ shoppers (as a percentage of each site’s total traffic). It could very well be that the driver of this difference is the limited version of the feature offered by the two department stores.

Between JC Penney and Sears, I was surprised to see that despite Sears’ higher monthly traffic numbers as well as their more attractive free shipping for in-store-pickup, JC Penney had a higher percent of its shoppers look at this feature.

The tables turned however once shoppers reached the decision making point – the purchase. Walmart remained the leader in total orders for in-store pickup but Sears’ offering proved itself over JCPenney’s; a greater percentage of Sears shoppers selecting in store pickup ended up making a purchase afterwards.

The conclusion here seems to be pretty basic: the cheaper the better, free being the best. Shoppers don’t like to pay for shipping and they’ll be more likely to make the purchase if they can avoid it.