May 1, 2008, 12:00 AM

In-store pick-up of online orders often falls short, expert says

Although more retailers are offering in-store pick-up of online orders, many fail to manage the service in a way that ensures a good customer experience, Gartner retail analyst Gene Alvarez says.

Although more retailers are offering in-store pick-up of online orders, many fail to manage the service in a way that ensures a good customer experience, says Gene Alvarez, vice president and retail industry analyst at research and advisory firm Gartner Inc.

“In some cases, in-store pick-up of an online order takes longer than if the customer just walked into a store to find a product,” Alvarez says. The result, he adds, is that customers may bypass the pick-up counter or find another store.

The ideal way to manage in-store pick-up of online orders, he adds, is to channel the online order into a formal fulfillment scheduling system-as if the store were a warehouse, Alvarez says. A dedicated person or team in each store should constantly check for incoming orders, either by monitoring incoming e-mail or by carrying mobile devices that provide order alerts, to ensure that orders are processed expediently and not lost, he adds.

It’s also important to provide clear payment options. Alvarez notes one retailer that required the shopper to enter credit card data online while placing an order for in-store pick-up, then requested the card again in the store, leaving the shopper to wonder if he were being charged twice.

Alvarez suggests retail managers try out their own online order, in-store pick-up service prior to peak shopping periods. “See if it executes the way intended,” he says. “It’s better to review it in the summer instead of finding out during the holiday shopping season that online orders weren’t fulfilled through in-store pick-up because the orders weren’t picked properly or on time.”

Alvarez is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 9-12 in Chicago in a session entitled Making your e-commerce technology shopping list.

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