The search giant today launched an app called Inbox that could force retailers to change their e-mail marketing strategies.
Retailers use subtle cues to encourage site visitors to go into stores.
Retailers know customers that connect through a variety of channels—store, web site, phone and mobile devices—tend to be more profitable. But most are staying low-key this week in encouraging holiday shoppers who visit their web sites to also go into stores or try out their mobile offers.
While some offered deals only good in stores on their web sites, it was more common to promote cross-channel shopping through the convenience of in-store pickup and shopping with mobile apps, according to a review by Internet Retailer of dozens of retail sites among the Top 1000 e-retailers, as ranked in the Top 500 and Second 500 guides.
An exception is Toys ‘R’ Us, No. 29 in the Top 500 Guide, which offered on its home page this week an “in-store only” deal of “15% off your entire purchase.” The deal appeared next to a store locator and an offer to “Order online and pay in store.”
J. Crew, No. 59, featured on its home page: “30% off and free shipping on every purchase, in stores and online.” It also provides a store locator on the bottom of each web page.
Apple, No. 3, is running a banner at the bottom of its home page on Store. Apple.com that encourages shoppers to shop online but then pick up the order in an Apple store to get personal assistance: “Buy great gifts here, Pick up at any Apple Retail Store. Get Personal Setup. Learn more.” It also notes that shoppers can return online orders in Apple stores.
And Gap, No. 22, e-mailed an offer on Dec. 6 for $15 off on $50 spent in a Gap store through Dec. 9. Gap and Old Navy, one of Gap’s brands, also provide a box toward the bottom of their home pages alerting shoppers to extended holiday season store hours, with the ability to click a link for more details on stores and product promotions.
Other retailers also called attention on their web sites to their stores staying open extra hours during the holidays. In addition to a top-of-home-page store locator, for example, outdoor sports gear retailer Cabela’s, No. 43, presents a teaser elsewhere on the site for “Extended Christmas Hours in our Stores.”
A more common strategy, however, was to mix in subtle online messages about the convenience of using mobile apps and ordering online with a free shipping deal and the option to pick up an order in a store.
In one of the more innovative mobile offerings, Yoox Group, No. 62, displays a “Speak & Shop by Color” feature on its web site and mobile app that lets shoppers either click or say a color to pull up groups of apparel and home décor items with the same color theme.
Amazon.com, No. 1, lets shoppers click into a “Today’s Deals” section on its home page and download Amazon mobile apps for holiday shopping; the section also lets shoppers get updated from Amazon via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Walmart.com, No. 4, provided the home-page promotion: “Shop Mobile Sunday, Dec. 16, only from your Walmart App. Download the Walmart App to shop our exclusive one-day super savings event.”
Mobile gift cards are available along with conventional store plastic gift cards, e-cards or mobile gift cards on the e-commerce site of American Eagle Outfitters, No. 65. At Ralph Lauren Media, No. 69, online shoppers may also choose among store or online gift cards, and enter a card’s personal identification number online to check its remaining value.
Following are more examples of how retailers encouraged use of mobile commerce and mixed online and in-store shopping:
● Macys.com, No. 14, provides a Mobile Apps link, marked with a little smartphone image, in a navigation section at the bottom of its web pages. The link leads to a promotional page for mobile commerce, where a visitor can text a keyword to a short code to automatically download the correct app for his mobile device.
● Web-only Newegg.com, No. 13, doesn’t play up multichannel in a big way, though a navigation section at the bottom of every page offers a textual link to Mobile Apps in its far lower right corner. The link takes a visitor to a page with easy-to-view QR codes that she can scan to arrive on a mobile app download page.
● Recreational Equipment Inc., No. 64, features a home-page promotion of its REI mobile apps for iPhone and Android that let customers check snow reports while also shopping for winter sports gear.
● Northern Tool + Equipment Co., No. 89, displays on both its mobile and desktop sites a prominent home-page three-day sale banner; the banner on the mobile site also features a rotating list of gift card offers, while the desktop version displays the cards in a separate banner.
Mixing online and stores
● OfficeMax, No. 12, displays a “View Cart” box at the top right of its home page, showing the number of carted items, an offer for free shipping with a $20 purchase and the option to select either shipping or in-store pickup.
● Directly underneath its home page logo and next to a free shipping offer, J.C. Penney, No. 20, offers free four- to seven-day shipping to any store within the United States on all orders.
● Costco, No. 17, displays a warehouse locator for finding nearby stores at the top of its web pages. A visitor can enter city, state and ZIP code, then filter the results by clicking among menu options including Gas Station, Tire Center, Food Court, Hearing Aids, Pharmacy and Optical Department.
● Staples, No. 2, provides a home page message, “Reserve online, pick up in store. We’ll have your order ready in two hours.”
● Office Depot, No. 6, promises at the top of its home page that shoppers can pick up online orders within one hour at an Office Depot store; it also displays top-of-the-page links to a store locator and a “shop-by-catalog” feature. At the bottom of its home page, the retailer prompts shoppers to send a text message to receive up to five mobile alert offers per month.