How have companies convinced people to order online rather than physical stores?
March 22, 2010 4:06 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of ways in which companies have driven customers to order online rather than a physical location?

For a school research project on influencing consumer behavior I am looking into how companies have driven consumers into ordering online to save the company money. Mostly in relation to more affordable items - for example Pizza Hut, Gap, etc.

Have they given consumers incentives? Made it easier? Etc? Specific examples are great but general ideas are okay too.
posted by IzzeYum to Technology (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The ticketing outlet I buy tickets to sporting matches from simply put their fees up on box office tickets, in comparison to paying with a credit card and printing tickets.

Mind you the convenience of not having to walk down to the outlet and queue during your lunch hour is pretty good too.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:13 PM on March 22, 2010

I always order Papa Johns pizza online because they always have coupons and specials available through the site right on the order page. I don't have to mess around with digging through old newspaper circulars or postcards to try to find a coupon... it's just always there, ready for me to use. That and they often have coupons that are only available online.

This is pretty common for the big pizza chains.

Another example, maybe not so much a deliberate act on the part of companies, but I find it preferable to order pizza online because there's greater accuracy in my entering exactly what I want. It eliminates the middle man taking my order over the phone, removing one human's worth of error from the chain. That cuts costs for the company both in labor and reduced errors.

Not so much a financial incentive, but Dominos has a neat little time line tool on their web site that allows you to watch the progress of your order being made, showing the name of the person making your item, the phase your order is in (prep, baking, etc.) and the time remaining until your order is ready for pickup/out for delivery. The only way it could be better would be webcams.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chipotle does this so you can avoid massive lines/waits at the store.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:24 PM on March 22, 2010

Sears, JC Penney, Target, KMart, and Wal-mart all have many items that they list as online only. You cannot go to the store to buy them (or look at them or try them on), but you can order them from the website.
posted by dilettante at 4:36 PM on March 22, 2010

Not having a storefront, or not having one that is accessible, open or provides parking. Cash-only in store can be a deterrent too. Free delivery is nice.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:52 PM on March 22, 2010

I don't think this is a case where the companies are leading the customers. It's the other way around, competitive pressure is forcing companies to have an online presence because if they don't, they lose business to competitors who do.

One are where this is happening is home-delivery restaurants, especially pizza. Online ordering of pizza for delivery is easier and more convenient than trying to do it by telephone, and the chains that have instituted such abilities do better business than those who don't.

Which is why both Pizza Hut and Domino's now have such things. Eventually all of them will have.

One of the best reasons why online ordering is better is that it's slower. The customer doesn't feel pressured to move quickly; they can take their time, browse the menu, talk about it (if there are two or more) and so on.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:54 PM on March 22, 2010

Boston Pizza gives you a free appetizer for your first online order, $5 off for your 5th, and 15% off for your 10th. I have ordered by phone before but recently saw the promotion and made my first order online.
posted by AgentRocket at 5:05 PM on March 22, 2010

Radio Shack did this by reducing their stock of electronic components and their stock of knowledgeable staff. That drove me online and (unintentionally on their part) to other vendors.
posted by plinth at 5:06 PM on March 22, 2010

Chipotle has an iPhone app that will remember your home store and your recent orders, so ordering your favorite burrito takes no more than a couple of clicks and about 20 seconds.
posted by AgentRocket at 5:06 PM on March 22, 2010

Container Store has an option on their website where you can put items you want in a shopping cart, pay for them, and pick them up later in the store.
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 5:21 PM on March 22, 2010

REI lets you order stuff online and pick it up at the store, then if it doesn't fit or whatever you can return it right there. They have better selection online, especially of sale items, and the shipping is free. The main drawback is that it's glacially slow. Still, it allows you to take advantage of deals not offered at your local store.

Zappos free & incredibly fast shipping (and competitors meeting it) means that I pretty much exclusively order my shoes online. You can order several pairs and try them on at home with the clothes you intend to wear them with. The selection is much better than any brick and mortar store, especially if you live in a rural area.

Sprint lets you order phones & accessories online and ships them to you instantly. They practically arrive as you hang up the phone. Again, a better selection and not having to drive to the store is why I use that service.
posted by fshgrl at 7:01 PM on March 22, 2010

There's a restaurant chain in NYC called Cafe Metro that has online deals, both to attract more customers and to try to get fewer people in the restaurant at any given time. It gets really crowded at lunch time. If you order a tossed salad there in person, you pay per ingredient, and a decent salad can easily run you over $10. However, if you order online (you also need to give them substantial notice - like 30 minutes at least) you get somewhat unlimited topping choices for only $6. By the way, the website says "this month," but they had the same deal last month also.

How accurate they are in getting your order correct is another thing all together, but it's still a much better deal than ordering the same salad in person. I know that this method has worked because I've used it a few times, whereas I wouldn't have gotten salads there without the deal because they're too expensive.
posted by wondermouse at 7:48 PM on March 22, 2010

Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Gap, and several other clothing retailers have their petite clothing available online, but only in a few selected brick-and-mortar stores.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:00 PM on March 22, 2010

Piggybacking on Soliloquy's answer, when Old Navy took their plus-size clothes out of the store a few years ago, it pretty much forced me to buy their clothes online. The amount of money I've spent in shipping fees makes me shake my fist angrily.

Target has thousands of adorable things on their website that are not available in the stores. Literally, thousands. For example, Target really only carries a few styles of their rain boots in the stores, but online, they have like eleventy billion different styles, some with cute adorable whales on them.
posted by kerning at 8:07 PM on March 22, 2010

This isn't a retail example, but I worked for a huge mutual fund company and it was extremely financially advantageous to drive shareholders to use the web for placing investment orders and making account inquiries. The more people used the online site, the fewer employees they had to train, manage, pay salary, provide office space for, pay health insurance for, etc. Not to mention not having to pay for tens of thousands of extra toll free phone calls in a day. It was often quoted to me that a service employee cost us about $100,000 a year once you factored in all the costs associated with employing that person (salary, training, benefits, office space, HR costs, computers/office equipment, etc. - of course, their salary was only a small part of that). Multiply that by the thousands of service employees we had and it's a huge savings to push some of that work to the web. The web was dirt cheap to maintain by comparison.

This savings ultimately benefits the shareholders of the mutual funds since there are fewer operating costs to pass along to them via fees.
posted by cecic at 8:29 PM on March 22, 2010

Free shipping costs for orders over X dollars through places like mean I rarely buy new books in person anymore.

There's an extremely busy local computer store chain that also has a strong online presence. The place is busy enough they have a take-a-number system in place for in store purchases. They have a (usually short) queue that is only for online order pickups.
posted by lmm at 9:08 PM on March 22, 2010

I buy (clothes) online from cheap retailers because I can shop at any time of day, mull over my purchases, send links to friends to have them look at stuff no matter where they are, and I still have the option of returning things to a storefront if they don't fit (part of the reason that I hesitate to buy clothing from online-only retailers). Also, it doesn't cost me any extra. If I'm paying for shipping, I'm buying it in-store (or not at all).

Plus, they can offer a greater variety of goods online.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:58 PM on March 22, 2010

The Dendy cinema in Canberra has assigned seating on Fridays and Saturdays. If you try and buy a ticket from the box office they don't let you choose your seat. The box office staff have little monitors that they can flip around to show you which seats are available, but apparently they've been told they'll get fired if they actually do this (the reason I was given when I asked was that they wanted people to book online) so you just have to accept the seat they've given you and trust they've chosen a good one.

If you buy tickets online you get to see a map of the cinema and choose exactly where to sit. They also charge an extra dollar to book this way, but I think the main reason they do it is to cut down on queues and avoid having to hire more staff.

Personally I find this so annoying that I just don't go to Dendy anymore.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:34 AM on March 23, 2010

I can't remember the company (though I could have sworn it was somebody big like Amazon) but here's an example of the same tactic: a phone-order surcharge.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:10 PM on March 24, 2010

« Older Inky Boots   |   X-ray photo of a cat? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.