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Jul 07, 2009
Case Study

Combine Local Search with In-Store Inventory Check: 5 Steps

SUMMARY: For certain products, consumers would rather use a search engine to learn more about them and then go to see the products in person. Local search is a way for e-retailers to bridge this gap.

Find out how a multichannel jeweler connected online searches to in-store sales with an integrated, localized search engine optimization program. Includes creative samples of alert emails and SMS messages that let searchers reserve products before coming in to look.

David Kohel, Director, Ecommerce, Fred Meyer Jewelers, works in what he calls the "traditional, high-touch, commission-based business" of selling jewelry. Jewelry is an expensive, personalized, and taste-driven product that people want to try on before purchasing.

Kohel was responsible for driving sales on Fred Meyer’s website, but not all customers were comfortable purchasing online. Attracting consumers online and convincing them to visit a brick-and-mortar store was also part of his job.

"We were looking for some multi-channel initiatives to really drive foot traffic and kind of keep the brick and mortar stores alive a bit," says Kohel.

Kohel knew that customers did a considerable amount of research online before purchasing in a store. He had to bridge the gap between online search and in-store sales.


Kohel and his team tested a system that alerted online searchers whether a product was in-stock in a nearby Fred Meyer store. The 90-day test ran in 15 stores across the US.

Here are the steps the team took:

Step #1. Record store inventory

The team had to know which products where available in each of the 15 stores. They worked with IT resources to scrape their websites’ data and check each store’s inventory. Eventually, each store’s inventory was compiled into a database.

Step #2. Create local-search-optimized landing pages

The team worked with a localized product search provider that had partnerships with major search engines and with several malls that contained Fred Meyer stores.

Here’s how the team shared its inventory data with those channels:

- Major search engines

The inventory was built into landing pages that were optimized for local search results by store location and product. These pages were indexed by the major search engines, such as Google.

Using SEO techniques, the pages were targeted to people searching for a Fred Meyer product in their location. For example, they optimized pages to show up for search phrases such as:
o "White gold engagement ring Mountain View California"

- Local malls

Several shopping malls that contained a Fred Meyer store had websites that let visitors search for products in the mall. The team worked with the malls to add the inventory data to the search tools.

Step #3. Enable real-time inventory checks

When visitors found a product they liked on a localized search engine results page, or a mall search result page, they could click a blue button labeled "Is It In Stock?" to see if the product was in stock in the nearby store.

After clicking the button, a pop-up screen prompted users to provide the size needed, and their name and email address. A team member received the request and called the store to check availability.

- Email response

If a store was open, visitors received an email in about 10 minutes specifying the product’s availability. Otherwise, they received an email notifying them when the store opened and when they could expect an answer.

The notification email included the following features:
o Product picture and name
o Text describing the product’s availability and price
o A large orange button to reserve the product
o Requester’s name
o Name of the store clerk who confirmed availability
o Address and phone number of the store

- Text message response

Users could also click a checkbox and provide a phone number to receive a text message alert on product availability. Two text messages were sent in pairs to alert customers:

Message #1: (1/2) Confirmed. Product In-Stock - Check email to reserve
"14kt. White Gold 3 ct. tw. Eng..."

Message #2: (2/2) See email for details. Questions: [help email address] [case: #####]

Step #4. Enable product reservations

Response emails allowed users to click a button to reserve the product.

Only one click was required to place a reservation. After clicking, a page appeared with the following features:
o Product picture, price and description
o Customer name, email and phone number
o Time the request was sent
o "We will send you an email and a TXT message in the next 10 minutes and let you know if it has been put on hold."
o Three pictures of related products also available at the store

- Email confirmation

The email sent to confirm a product reservation was very similar to the email that confirmed the product’s availability. One key difference was this request:

"Please print a copy of this email and bring it with you to the store to claim your item."

- SMS confirmation

If an SMS message was requested, the user also received two text messages similar to the availability messages and a request to "Show this msg to claim product"

- Tracking

When the reserve button was clicked, a team representative called the store to place the product on hold. After 48 hours, the team member called again to find out if the customer came in to view the product and whether or not the customer made a purchase.

Asking customers to show the email or text message confirmations to a store clerk made visits and purchases easier to track.

Step #5. Maintain store commissions

Getting local stores to participate in the program was a challenge, Kohel says. Some stores were skeptical of the effect an online initiative might have on foot traffic and, in turn, their sales commissions.

Kohel assured them the program was designed to drive more confirmed sales leads into stores. The sales person working with the customers received their full commission for each sale.

"Just because someone is a confirmed lead does not mean that we’ve already grabbed that share of wallet," Kohel says.

Even though Kohel is responsible for ecommerce operations, he was not concerned that the campaign’s revenue would be attributed to the brick-and-mortar stores. He just wanted to increase sales.


"The big kick for us was the lift in natural search traffic we had," Kohel says.

Although the program did not generate as much store traffic had Kohel had hoped, it generated enough revenue to pay for the cost of the program:
o 65% of the products requested by customers were in-stock and ready at a nearby store
o 83% of customers who reserved a product visited a store and completed a purchase

- Expanded nationally

The program was successful enough for Kohel to expand it to all Fred Meyer’s stores in the US.

The team added a "Find it Local" button to their homepage. When clicked, the button took visitors to a webpage that detected a users’ location and allowed them to search for Fred Meyer products nearby. The location could also be changed to another city.

"The second we opened this up to all of our locations, it was like gangbusters," he says. "And the second that we started promoting it and putting a link on our homepage, it was like through the roof."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative Samples from Fred Meyer’s local search campaign

NearbyNow: Provided local product search

Fred Meyer Jewelers

See Also:

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