Although 61 of the 79 prestige retailers and brands included in our new Multichannel Retail report currently offer their shoppers the option to purchase online and return in person, adoption of more advanced fulfillment options still lags considerably. One of the most useful digital tools retailers can provide to consumers is up-to-date inventory information: i.e., is the item I want in-stock at a specified store location? Whether the product in question is a pair of shoes or a bedroom rug, the vast majority of potential buyers are going to research options online but want to see it in person prior to purchase. Despite this well-documented pattern of behavior, less than a quarter of retail brands’ sites integrate real-time inventory with individual store locations. Three of the brands that do offer this functionality, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and American Apparel, only do so from their desktop sites, not their mobile sites (AA doesn’t even have a mobile-optimized site), proving useless to their largely young, on-the-go shopper-base.
More surprising than lack of inventory integration is that just 11 percent of the retailers and brands assessed in our report facilitate online purchase, in-store pick-up–a feature that adds enormous value to customers who want their items faster and don’t want to pay for shipping with minimal effort to store employees. The slow crawl in this facet of multichannel is surprising, given that in our 2012 Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail report, 10 percent of retailers offered the service, indicating negligible year-over-year improvement. There are bright spots, however. Armani Exchange (see above right), is the only brand to permit users to reserve products online at designated A|X locations and pay in-store. Williams-Sonoma turns the process on its head with “Shop In-Store, Ship It Home,” which offers free home shipping for in-store purchases over $49–a service it promotes via email and on its site. Gap and Banana Republic dedicate significant site real estate to their new “Find In-Store” features. And Burberry recently expanded its “Collect–in-Store” service to eight global cities.