Kmart's 'Ship my pants' ad: Lowes, Sears and Walmart fight online retailers with ship to store

CLEVELAND - There's a push in Congress to level the playing field between online and retail shore since some online shops don't charge sales tax. While that war is still waging in Washington, retailers are fighting back with creative marketing plans to get you back in the store shopping.

"Ship my pants? Right here? You're kidding?" The catchy phrases in the Kmart ad have many shoppers laughing and clicking, making the ad viral.

"I just shipped my drawers. I just shipped my nighty. I just shipped my bed," the ad continues.
 
Online shopping is no laughing matter for brick and mortar shops.
 
"I love Amazon. I order everything off Amazon," shopper Christian Willis said.

Retailers are desperate to get customers back in their stores before it's too late.
 
"I actually like their chances. They have a good shot here," Cleveland State business professor Elad Granot said.
 
Granot said retailers are beginning to blur the lines between their online and in-store marketplaces.

"They are trying to compete on convenience and selection that's what this is all about," Granot said.

Kmart's ad said if you can't find an item in the store, you can find it online and get it shipped to your home for free. Other stores offer to ship online items to the store for free, even with same day service on some things.

It's a hybrid business model, and it's working. Nearly half of Walmart's online orders are now picked up in the store.

"Sometimes the shipping fees are a little ridiculous so I'd rather save the money and I don't live too far from the stores," shopper Tammara Wright said.

Ship to the store put to the test

So how easy is this process for the customer? We went on a shopping spree to find out.

We ordered items from Lowes, Toys "R" Us, Walmart and Sears.

Walmart orders take up to four hours to process, but other stores are much quicker. Lowes offers a 20-minute guarantee.

Lowes, Sears and Toys "R" Us were all ready within 15 to 20 minutes.

It took less than two minutes to pick up our items at the Lowes customer service desk. At other stores, you spend that much time wandering through the aisles to find the pickup kiosk. At Toys "R" Us, pickup is in the middle of the store.

At the Walmart stores we visited, the online orders were at the back of the store by the restrooms. Granot said that location is strategic.

"Walmart did research and found consumers who order online and pick up in the store spend on average an extra $60 in the store. That's why they are doing that," Granot said.

When you get to the counter at the back of the store, you have to push a button and wait for someone to help you.

The trip to Walmart to pick up our order took just under 18 minutes.

Walmart responds

A Walmart representative apologized, and added, "We've provided feedback to and are working with these stores to further improve the experience, including reducing the wait time to pick up orders. We apologize for your experience which is not reflective of the level of service we aim to provide. Since launching Site to Store in 2007, we've continued to enhance the Site to Store service and customers have responded accordingly, as more than half of our online orders are now picked up in stores. We'll continue to focus on delivering an easy, seamless experience for customers to shop online, in stores and through mobile devices."

We went on a second shopping trip to see if the customer experience has improved. This time it took 10 minutes to pick up our order.

The next step in this hybrid business model is to add lockers to the store. Walmart is already testing this option in some stores, and Amazon is adding them as well in office supply stores.

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