Shopping local with online influence upticks in summer

by | Jun 22, 2017 | Omnichannel, Retailers

There is a recognizable change in consumer shopping habits once summer hits. When Memorial Day rolls around, things happen pretty fast: The kids are off school, summer activities start up, people are going on vacations (and staycations), visiting the local pool, picnicking the park, etc. Though often consumers generally become relaxed about things, when the weather gets warm, that laid-back attitude may bely their busy summer schedules. Combining shopping local with online shopping helps them stay prepared and keep moving forward through the summer season.

Shopping fast

Because the speed of life seems to hasten in the summer, this is a time of year when brick and mortar stores could possibly have some advantage to straight e-commerce. People are out and about, and whether their road trip is to the local beach or across the country, they’re more likely to drive near and stop at the local brick-and-mortar store that has the items they want, from flip flops at Target, plastic kiddie pools at Walmart or a rotisserie chicken at a local grocery store (my go-to in Minnesota is Cub Foods).

Shopping local for consumables and seasonal commodities upticks in summer because people need stuff “now”. Consumers need that sunscreen for the pool, that bag of chips for the road trip, cooler for the camping excursion or the briquettes for the family grill out. It’s different from other seasons because there is less regimented structured time constraints. Additionally, unlike the back to school shopping season or holiday shopping season, consumers are not focused on retail shopping in summer. They’re planning less and reacting more – reacting to sudden changes in weather, spontaneous activities with the kids, new opportunities to have fun, etc.

Those high frequency, need-based commodity consumables become core. Those grab-and-go foods, cold beverages, sunscreen. A sporting goods store perhaps could emphasize bug spray and sunglasses in a displays over golf clubs to get those smaller sales in mass quantities – if the customer wants to buy the golf clubs, they’re still going to buy them anyway. High frequency fast turn items can be your bread and butter at this time.

Shopping local

The change in attitude and need for speed that infiltrates summer can make the convenience factor of shopping local and online shopping options more important for retailers, grocers and consumers. We see an uptick in brick-and-mortar retail sales, buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS or BOPUS) transactions and local delivery services during summer.

Summer is when people might not have time to shop – not because what they need isn’t important to them, but because there’s so much going on. They don’t want to spend a lot of time looking around or wandering through the grocery store. They appreciate the convenience of being able to go on their laptop or mobile device check what local brick and mortar retailers have what they want. They can also place a BOPIS order or, depending where they live, request local delivery as fast as two hours after the order is places.

The convenience of online purchases for pick-up from brick-and-mortar retail stores go up in summer, and grocery is no different. The local stores that offer online purchase services are seeing more orders placed online, picked at the store, bagged and carried out to the car when the customer arrives. You also see more grocery delivery services like Instacart, Hy-Vee or even Amazon out on the road delivering online grocery orders to customers. Local farmers’ market subscription box food programs are very popular, with the abundance of fresh produce available and delivered right to your door.

Convenience and visibility win

Have you noticed theme? For retailers and grocers, this is the time when your convenience factor should be front and center to your consumers and your online game should be on point. For example, we predict there are going to be a lot more people who use Walmart’s grocery pickup service this summer. The service is free if you spend more than $50 — just submit your order to Walmart, they’ll collect everything, and when you arrive, they load it up into the trunk for you. You don’t even have to get out of your car. When you’ve spent a day at the waterpark and three soaking wet, shivering crabby kids are in the backseat asking “Are we home yet?” BOPIS grocery services likes Walmart’s are lifesavers.

Of course, marrying the e-commerce website with store level data is vital for these service offerings to be of value. Strong product descriptions on your website help consumers decide what to buy. Accurate inventory availability displayed on product pages let’s them know you have it in stock at their local store, right now. Both product and inventory data are absolutely integral for you to take advantage of the influx of summertime local shopping online orders.

Offering the services are great, but those services won’t help if you don’t have the items in-stock. And not just having the item on the shelf, but also listing the products on your website with updated inventory information at the store level. For the best results, put everything that’s in your store on your website, even things you wouldn’t necessarily expect. For example, not every grocer puts milk on their website, but having that updated inventory information for a customer to see that you have their preferred brand in stock can mean they visit your store for their needs, instead of the competition.

Though cost often reigns supreme for consumer choices, buying patterns can change when the weather gets warmer. People are more likely to consider the convenience of BOPIS or delivery services. If you’re not offering such option with an eye towards making consumers’ lives easier, you’re likely missing out on sales to local stores who do offer those services or have agreements with providers like Instacart.

Shopping local from brick-and-mortar stores has been seeing an uptick in popularity over the years. It only makes sense that it would eventually be influenced and enhanced by the rise of online shopping. Offering BOPIS and/or a local delivery option are fast turning into services consumers just expect from brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers and grocers should take a close look at their operations and service offerings to ensure they’re providing what consumers want.

If you would like to learn more about offering visibility for online ordering, BOPIS, and how retailers can take advantage of advanced supply chain solutions, please visit the SPS Commerce website or contact an SPS representative for more information on our cloud-based solutions.

Brandon Pierre