No matter how much you optimize your website, and no matter how little exposure you give your retail partners, some customers are going to buy your products from retailers instead of directly from you.
Every person who comes to your website has their own shopping preferences and loyalties, and you can’t overcome them all. If you want to create the best shopping experience for your website visitors, then it’s important to think about why your customers may prefer to buy from a retailer instead of your site.
To help you understand your customers better, we’ve put together a list of eight reasons they buy from retailers.
You might have some exclusive perks people can only get when they buy from you, like bonus products or unique colors, flavors, and sizes. But retailers have perks, too. And some of them give consumers pretty compelling reasons to buy exclusively from a particular retailer. Here are just a couple of the big ones.
1. Free two-day shipping
Amazon Prime members get free two- day shipping on most purchases. They get their online orders sooner and they don’t have to pay for a premium shipping option. Some manufacturers offer free shipping, but it rarely matches Amazon’s delivery time.
If someone has never purchased from you before, they may also be wary of your shipping. With big retailers, consumers know their order is typically processed immediately (unless they buy from a third-party seller), so the shipping timeline starts from the day they made their purchase.
That’s not always the case when you buy direct from a manufacturer. Some brands take days or even weeks to process an order before they ship it. Even if you don’t do this, the fact that other brands do makes potential customers hesitate to buy directly from you.
2. Rewards programs
Most large online retailers have some form of rewards program. They may have a special credit card that gives customers discounts or points with every purchase. Amazon’s Visa, for example, gives five percent back on every purchase on Amazon.com! From the customer’s standpoint, that’s like getting five percent off your price. Other rewards programs might include automatic discounts, gift cards, access to exclusive sales, and additional perks that are tough for manufacturers to compete with.
Convenience is one of the biggest factors consumers use to decide where to buy a product. It’s also one of the main advantages major retailers have over manufacturers. In many cases, they’re simply easier to work with—and their customers are already used to shopping with them.
3. Account creation
At the very least, creating a new account with you adds several clicks and some manual typing to the checkout process. There are more digital barriers between your customers and your products. If your customers don’t have their credit cards handy, that makes this process even more time consuming—and depending on the situation, it may simply not be possible at the moment.
Consumers often buy products from retailers instead of manufacturers simply because they already have accounts. They may even already be signed into these accounts on the devices they use regularly, so they don’t even have to remember their username and password. In that case, retailers like Amazon even offer a one-click buying option, making the checkout process extraordinarily convenient.
4. Local pickup
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what perks you offer or even if you have the best price—your customers need your product right now. Or maybe they already have plans to stop at a local retailer for other purchases. Major retailers have thousands of brick-and-mortar stores across the US, and some of your customers prefer the convenience of buying products from local, physical locations. They don’t have to wait for shipping, and they can examine your product before they buy.
Many large retailers also have unique buying options like BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) which blend the advantages of online shopping with the convenience of in-person shopping. Unless you have thousands of stores of your own, it’s hard to compete with this as a manufacturer.
5. Return policies
You might have a great return policy. 30 days. No questions asked. Original packaging not required. Items accepted in any condition. But if someone’s never been through that process with you before and doesn’t have a relationship with your brand yet, they may be reluctant to trust your returns to be as hassle-free as a major retailer they buy from all the time. Some major stores (like Costco) have even more generous return policies, extending the time for returns up to 90 days or more.
If a consumer goes through that process with a retailer once, they’re going to be a lot less stressed about purchasing new products and buying from new brands when they go through that retailer. And if they’re dealing with a large retailer with a local presence, they don’t even have to re-package and mail anything—they can just drop it off at their local store.
6. One-stop shopping
Obviously, retailers generally carry a wider variety of products than manufacturers. And when someone can get everything they need—household items, groceries, electronics, toys, clothes—from Target or Walmart, that’s a lot more convenient than purchasing individual items directly from manufacturers.
Sometimes you don’t have the best price on your own product. Retailers are constantly adjusting pricing for sales and promotions, and while you might price products based on your MSRP, a retailer’s pricing will often fluctuate between your MSRP and your MAP policy.
You probably publish product reviews on your website. But consumers are often wary of the reviews they see on a manufacturer’s website. Some brands hide bad reviews, so the ratings are skewed and potential customers can’t see if there are consistent problems. Even if you publish every review on your site, consumers generally trust reviews on a retailer’s site more because they consider retailers to be unbiased third parties.
8. Social proof
Major retailers have tons of customers. And that means popular products in any product category can easily accumulate hundreds or even thousands of reviews. Taken together, these reviews and ratings provide social proof, so consumers can see a more reliable picture of the experience they can expect to have with your products.