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Kohl’s, The Limited order up mobile opportunities via in-store pickup

Kohl’s and The Limited are getting behind online ordering and pick-up services that would serve up immediate gratification for consumers who are unwilling to wait for delivery while opening opportunities for retailers to serve up mobile-specific offerings.

By fall, Kohl’s plans to roll out to tablet and smartphone customers the in-store pickup program it now only offers on its desktop site. The Limited also has announced an in-store pickup service. The moves illustrate how retailers are striving to deliver real-time product availability in the mobile context, so consumers can be sure the product they want is waiting for them when they arrive at the store.

“Millennials polled are strongly interested in these services and value the time this would save them,” said Wilson Kerr of Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Imagine a parent with two young children driving to the store and the effort it takes to unload them and go in, only to find out that the product they’re looking for is not in stock.

“In-store pick up also drives location discovery, and, if credit is given to the stores, helps to enfranchise store managers who are increasingly at odds with the e-commerce team at the corporate offices,” he said.

Mobile downloads
In a conference call to discuss its first-quarter financial results last week, Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell said positive results from the company’s desktop-only trial of its store pickup program for online orders would lead to a broader rollout to users of tablets and smartphones by the fall.

The in-store pickup service often leads to further sales when people come to pick up an ordered item, Mr. Mansell said, adding that 7 million consumers have downloaded Kohl’s mobile application.

Kohl’s desktop-only in-store program.

“Easy experience is about creating seamless experiences often driven by the launching of new technology,” Mr. Mansell was quoted in a transcript on the Seeking Alpha Web site. “We continue to have a lot of traction in our efforts to be world-class in mobile.”

In the first quarter on tablet, Kohl’s optimized its pages to be more search engine friendly, he was quoted. The retailer also enabled multi-select filters resulting in better conversion and improved its big data algorithms to provide more relevant product recommendations.

Kohl’s also is leveraging its in-app mobile wallet to deliver personalized messages which can be scanned and redeemed in-store.

Another added feature is voice-based search on Android and image-based search on both Android and iOS.

The pace of development will accelerate in the second and third quarter across the mobile platform, Mr. Mansell said.

The Limited’s Reserve Online, Ready In-Store program is available at the retailer’s nearly 225 full-line store locations across the United States, following a trial in select stores in Washington, D.C. and Columbus, OH.

Users can reserve items online, select a preferred store for pick-up, and within approximately two hours, receive an email or text confirming the products are available, with specific pick-up instructions.

Items will be kept on hold at the selected store until the end of the following day. Customers can extend their hold time via email for an additional day.

A Limited representative could not be reached about whether the service would include mobile. A service representative contacted via a chat window said the service would include mobile.

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers and AT Kearney shows that 80 percent of customers research their purchases online, but 75 percent of consumers still prefer to buy products in a physical store. To maximize this potential, the large retail giants are constantly evolving their propositions to suit.

A Forrester Group survey found that 47 percent of customers surveyed used in-store pickup to avoid shipping fees, 25 percent to get products sooner and 10 percent to avoid waiting for a delivery.

Investment concerns
Many retailers still hold the view that in-store pickup technology is too complicated and costly to warrant investment. Some also see ensuring customers receive in-store orders in a timely fashion as too challenging.

Target’s mobile-optimized in-store pickup service.

However, retailers such as Target are keeping consumers satisfied with online orders by shipping certain products from participating stores rather than only shipment centers.

“It is worth noting that both Kohl’s and The Limited use dedicated mobile commerce sites,” Mr. Kerr said. “This will allow them to serve up mobile-specific offerings for in-store pickup, rather than just delivering a smaller, resized responsive design version of their desktop site.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York