November 6, 2012 Leave a Comment
Since the economic downturn, many merchants have re-instituted layaway programs, whereby shoppers can reserve and set aside items, and pay for them in installments over a set time period. Layaway is especially popular for the holidays: not only can consumers pay for gift purchases over time, but by participating in layaway programs they can stake their claim on sought-after toys and electronics that may be out of stock later in the season.
Merchants not only benefit from the revenues generated by layaway items, but layaway helps them gauge interest in popular items, thereby enabling better inventory control, according to the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, layaway programs can generate additional impulse purchases when participants place their orders, make payments or pick up their items.
For many merchants, layaway programs are managed entirely in physical stores. But because a brand’s online touchpoints are vital information sources even for in-store shoppers, it’s key to support layaway programs extensively with online content. Merchants with layaway programs for the holidays should act now to launch a comprehensive page with layaway program information. Provide a concise but thorough description of the layaway program, including any fees, the required percentage or amount for a down payment, and the payment schedule. Toys R Us promotes its in-store program with a bold, colorful page touting “layaway … the easy way,” with a no signup fees and the ability to use layaway for any toys, including electronics. The page links to full program details as well as the store locator so shoppers can connect with physical locations where they can put items on layaway.
Merchants should link to the information prominently and promote layaway from:
On-site search. Shoppers entering the term “layaway” in the on-site search box should be directed to information about the program, as on the Walmart site, where a notice at the top of the page lets shoppers know they’ve been automatically redirected rather than shown matching products.
Store locator tools. Shoppers using the store locator — whether on the main eCommerce site or via mobile device — should be able to view at a glance which outlets offer layaway, such as on the TJ Maxx site, where locations offering layaway are flagged with a hanger icon.
Product pages. Even if shoppers can’t purchase on layaway via their computers or mobile devices, they may still want to know if they have the layaway option in-stores, so display an icon or flag letting them know which items qualify. Text on Kmart product pages designates which items can be bought using “layaway — the easy way to pay, “ and links to a calculator showing the payment schedule for the product in question.Kmart does allow for online layaway management — but the calculator would be just as useful for in-store programs; the information helps budget-conscious shoppers plan their payments. Kmart provides a printable version for shoppers who choose to visit physical stores to reserve layaway items.
Social networks. Share layaway information with deal-conscious brand followers on social networking sites. On Facebook, build custom content about the layaway program and encourage browsing and buying with a link to qualifying products, as Walmart does on its page. A link to the layaway information receives top billing on its main Timeline page, and the information page encourages shoppers to “start browsing” with a link to the eCommerce site.
In addition to promoting in-store layaway for this year’s holiday season, merchants should begin planning for the future — when online integration of layaway is likely to become an expected norm. Like Kmart, sister brand Sears offers a complete layaway management tool that incorporates FAQs, payment calculators, and the ability to shop layaway-qualified items by department, as well as the ability to make payments. Such tools, while representing a significant investment, offer online shoppers the same access to the convenience and selection of a layaway program. Since convenience is a top reason shoppers choose to purchase online during the holidays, according to the 2012 MarketLive Consumer Shopping Survey, merchants who allocate resources to this tool are likely to earn loyalty and sales.
Do you offer layaway? If so, how are you supporting it online this holiday season — and how will you do so in the future?