Live from eTail 2005: Be “Reasonably” Consistent Among Channels

Palm Desert, CA–If you’re a multichannel marketer, your customers will understand “logical inconsistencies” in your shopping channels, according to Bill Bass, vice president/general manager, Sears Customer Direct, and senior vice president of e-commerce, Lands’ End. In the opening general session of the eTail 2005 conference, Bass told attendees that they have to play to each channel’s strengths rather than do everything the same in every channel. Bass used the example of KitchenAid mixers, which come in a rainbow of colors. Sears stores do not carry the mixer in every color, but the retailer displays a poster of all the available colors. Customers can order the mixer in colors not available in the store at the cash register, and Sears will ship it to them. As a result, Bass said, 25% of the company’s sales of the mixers come through the online channel–which he pointed out is a relatively insignificant part of Sears’ total business.

“Customers know that you can’t carry the mixers in all 20 colors in the store,” Bass said. What’s key to the success is the customer service element, since the sales clerk actually takes the order for the customer. It probably would not work as well if Sears simply had an order kiosk set up near the mixers, Bass noted. Bass also revealed that more than 40% of Sears’ e-commerce sales are from customers who buy online and pick up the goods in the store. The top reason customers prefer to shop this way is saving on shipping and handling, he said, since there’s a high correlation between the weight of the product and the in-store pickup preference. It’s also a popular option for holiday shopping, since “people don’t want to get shut out” without gifts at the last minute, Bass said.

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