Framingham, Mass. – Staples, the No. 1 office supply chain, has launched a series of online and in-store enhancements to create a more seamless multichannel experience for customers.
The initiatives allow in-store pick-ups of online orders within a two-hour window and provide upgraded in-store kiosks for touchscreen access to its 1 million-SKU virtual assortment.
Staples has also rolled out an easy-payment system that pre-populates customer information at checkout, and has launched its first mobile app for iPads.
“Staples continues to innovate and develop new technology to improve the customer experience, whether it’s providing convenient shipping options, making check-out faster or adding mobile platforms,” said Faisal Masud, the chain’s global e-commerce executive VP. “The recent updates will make it easier for customers to shop however and from wherever they want. This is particularly important for businesses that are always on the go and can’t wait for a delivery or delay shopping until they are in front of a desktop.”
The free in-store pick-up option, pioneered by Circuit City in the mid-2000s and now commonplace at retail chains, allows customers to permanently set their preferred store location and view available inventory at the three nearest showrooms. Products that are not available in stores can be shipped to the nearest Staples for pick up.
The upgraded kiosks, which will roll out chain-wide over the next few months, feature a touchscreen display, and will be relocated within stores for easier access. Orders placed through the kiosks, to Staples.com, come with free delivery.
The new payment system, dubbed Visa Checkout, can be used on any device and with any brand of credit card. Once enrolled, customers simply enter their username and password to complete purchases on Staples.com. The company launched Visa Checkout in July, but has now added the feature to its mobile-commerce sites.
Meanwhile, Staples’ new iPad app allows users to easily view and use their loyalty rewards balance and reorder past purchases. It also provides direct access to promotions; local inventory availability; quick navigation; and faster, customizable searches, the company said.
Staples, ranked 16th in online CE sales by TWICE’s Top 20 E-tailers report, faces ongoing competition from the online, discount and wholesale club channels, as well as a stronger direct opponent in No. 2 office supply chain OfficeDepot, which last year merged with OfficeMax.
Following a tepid second-quarter earnings report, at least one retail analyst, Credit Suisse’s Gary Balter, has also made a strong argument for a Staples/OfficeDepot merger. In a research note, he argued that synergies from the combo would more than double the pair’s operating profits by 2017, allow for more strategic and optimal store closings, and create a stronger b-to-b business, while easily passing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) muster given the agency’s hearty endorsement of the Office Depot/OfficeMax deal.