Local search industry watchers have been saying for a while now that local search is primarily a search online, buy offline model. We look online for the right product, and then go buy it at a local store. I believe that to be a mostly accurate statement, although there are obvious exceptions. (I don’t go offline to make hotel reservations, for example, yet that is very much local search.)
Anyway … if “search online, buy offline” is the dominant function of local search, you would think that retailers would be going out of their way to make that process easier. Circuit City, I think, does a great job of this. In addition to a wide product selection, they provide two things I need to make a smart buying decision:
- Detailed product information
- Reviews from users/customers
And then they go one step further by offering “buy online, pick up at the store” (and with a 24-minute guarantee to boot). Admittedly, the Circuit City model is slightly different than what’s traditionally described as the local search model, but the point is the same: It’s an offline, local fulfillment of a search that began online.
The problem is that very few stores are doing this. They’re not offering local fulfillment of online activities.
According to the January issue of Internet Retailer magazine, only 43 of the Top 500 retailers offer a buy online/pick up at the store option. That’s less than ten percent. (see image at right)
If the Top 500 retailers are slow to implement this, what chance does a small, local business have? Well, in many ways, it would be easier for a local retailer. This is one occasion where lack of scale is a Good Thing. Small retail sites don’t have the complexity required by big brand retailers. Adding an “I’ll pick it up at the store” option should be an easy addition to most small business retail Web sites. (In my previous job as a web designer/developer, such a choice would be about 10 minutes of programming at most.)
Despite the benefits, and what I think should be an easy thing to do, I’m not aware of many small businesses providing this option to local shoppers. And if very few big brands and local stores are jumping on the bandwagon, it proves that search online/buy offline has a long way to go.
Are you aware of any small/local retailers offering a “pick it up at the store” option to shoppers?