"Store Locator" The Unsung Hero Of Web Analytics

When E-Commerce execs try and understand abandoned shopping carts, they often overlook concrete clues. One of the best is whether shoppers clicked on the store locator link right before leaving.

But deciding what to do about abandoned carts, that gets complicated. The innocuous-looking store locator is akin to waving a red cape in front of the face of an E-Commerce manager bull. In this case, even the bull is very real. And, yes, it all comes down to incentive plans, the least focused-on reason why Merged Channel programs so often fail.

That store locator observation was one of the more intriguing takeaways from a nicely done video on the Google Retail Advertising Blog. And Nikki Baird of Retail Systems Research took the next step, adding several of her takeaways atop what Google said, such as making sure you offer wishlists to make it more likely that customers are using shopping carts as shopping carts.

But Baird also suggested taking this store locator idea even further, by making it part of the shopping cart and offering in-store coupons to consumers as they're trying to close their filled shopping cart. That's where things get problematic.

From a strategic standpoint, I fully agree with Baird's point, as I usually do. I make it a point to agree with people smarter than I am. (My favorite corporate line was spoken by a CEO who, when asked what he looked for in a senior exec reporting to him, said "Good Judgment. And by that, I mean that he agrees with me an awful lot." Oddly enough, it's a much deeper thought than it initially sounds. But I digress....)

The disagreement is not with the strategic thought but the practical side. As much as we may preach the wisdom and benefits of merged channel, in-store and online managers still tend to distrust each other.

As non-team-player as it may sound, there are more than a handful of online managers who—given their incentive package—would find the choice of letting a customer abandon a cart for the arms of their brick-and-mortar counterparts difficult. Some managers, though, would rather convert a potential non-sale into a physical sale and use their time to find a different online customer.

Until compensation is radically rethought, that kind of poisoned thinking is undermining merged channel efforts through almost every segment of retail.

Pointing out ways to move customers to another channel presupposes that the executive is motivated to want to do that. They have to do it, they must do it, but when no one is watching, will they do it?

On Wednesday (Nov. 12), Escalate Retail announced a deal with Where 2 Get It to push a package that makes it easier to find a store. This effort faces two hurdles. Beyond the online-offline political resistance just described, Escalate's package is solving a problem that most large retailers have already solved.

The package provides the typical Web store locator program plus "interactive maps, driving directions for store pick-up of online purchases, and links to driving directions built into purchase confirmation e-mails. The solution also integrates with the internal Contact Center so customer service representatives can quickly answer questions about the closest store location and directions."

These options make great sense for the chain, but until the manager issues and incentive plans are addressed, they're going to meet the most difficult resistance out there: The silent kind.