Hardware Retailing

FEB 2019

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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February 2019 | HARDWARE RETAILING 59 For many consumers, choosing where to shop comes down to finding the lowest online price and knowing a particular item is in stock exactly when and where a shopper needs it. Millennial and Generation Z participants all stressed the importance of browsing online inventories, though they say they understood many independents face logistical challenges that prevent them from presenting their inventories online. "I look online for just about everything before I actually go to a store," says Amy Baldwin, a millennial. "I need to make sure the store has what I'm looking for, because I don't want to go to multiple places to find one item." For Olson, using a big box's buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) feature has been a major draw, but he says even major chains need some work before their BOPIS programs are reliable. "One of the reasons I shopped at a Lowe's recently was because of Lowe's in-store pickup program. You can buy something online, then pick it up in-store. At least that's how it's supposed to work," he says. Olson says he's zero for five with Lowe's BOPIS program. Other millennials expressed skepticism on the reliability of big boxes' online inventories. Millennial Mike Long says he has experienced multiple instances of an item being advertised as in stock at his local big box, only to arrive and learn the store doesn't carry it. "Online inventories, buying things online and picking them up at the store—they're great ideas, but a lot of times it's not as seamless as they make you think," Long says. "I've learned not to rely on it." Husted says she believes her generation isn't as concerned about online innovations. "I do check things online, but at the end of the day, I'm more likely to just visit a store in person and see what they have in stock," she says. There are other online opportunities retailers should consider in addition to BOPIS and online inventory, however. Several focus group participants saw value in retailers exploring social media opportunities and establishing regular e-newsletters. Both initiatives enable retailers to share sales information, new products, DIY tutorials and general store information. Olson says he unsubscribes from many email lists that no longer deliver value. He and other participants say they'd subscribe to a home improvement e-newsletter that included a mix of product information, how-to advice and other relevant information. Across generations, the participants agreed daily e-blasts would be an annoyance. Many members within the group recommended retailers who start an e-newsletter program focus on providing quality content once a week. Vernon, who represented Generation X, says money-saving coupons would be a great addition to e-newsletters. Online Oppor tunities • Consider starting a convenient BOPIS program for VIP customers. Even a system as simple as having an order ready when certain customers call can safeguard sales. Participants expressed frustration with big-box BOPIS programs, so set your business apart by piloting and then implementing a BOPIS program local consumers can count on. • Even if you can't represent your entire inventory online, be sure your website has a thorough overview of your different departments so consumers can have a good idea whether you'll carry the equipment they need. • Empower your employees to explore opportunities to begin an e-newsletter or ramp up your business's social media presence. A project like this can incentivize employees to invest in the company's long-term success and help them develop new skills. Put It to Use " I do check things online, but at the end of the day, I'm more likely to just visit a store in person and see what they have in stock. " —Lynnette Husted, Baby Boomer

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