5 Ways Brick-and-Mortar Merchants Can Utilize On-Demand Services

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If you can’t beat them, join them. With nearly three-quarters of American adults having used at least one on-demand or shared economy app, merchants on Main Street are exploring how they can benefit from the consumer-facing technologies that power these services. In many cases, businesses that sell physical goods are discovering that they can cut costs and increase services for their customers by forming partnerships with on-demand apps rather than competing on their own.

The trend has become so prevalent that on-demand vendors like Uber and Postmates are launching products designed specifically for merchants, allowing local businesses to process orders and manage multiple deliveries at once, while integrating directly with existing point-of-sale systems.

Here are five examples of ways that brick-and-mortar businesses can start utilizing on-demand services to benefit their own bottom lines, as well as the customers they serve.

1. Delivering purchases to local customers
One of the most obvious ways that merchants with brick-and-mortar stores can take advantage of on-demand delivery apps is by using those services to deliver local orders. A number of grocery stores have announced extended partnerships with Instacart, from national chains like Whole Foods to smaller, regional chains like Fairway. These partnerships involve dedicated Instacart shoppers who’ve been trained in how to “pick properly” at individual stores and then deliver those items to shoppers who’ve ordered through Instacart’s mobile app. Smaller businesses without formal partnerships can still take advantage of on-demand services by manually placing delivery orders for shoppers.

2. Placing orders for complementary services
What does a hair stylist do when a customer requests a manicure along with her blow out? Or how about a bakery that has customers asking how they can get bottles of wine to go along with their cupcake deliveries? On-demand apps can make it easier for very small businesses to provide all the services their customers request. For example, independent hair stylists can use on-demand beauty apps like Glam and StyleBee to setup nail or makeup appointments at their customers’ homes while they’re already there, and small bakeries can recommend on-demand alcohol delivery services like Thirstie to customers who inquire about having wine or beer delivered when they’re placing cupcake or cookie orders. Recommending on-demand services shouldn’t cost the business a dime, but it will make the business seem more full-service than it truly is.

3. Getting customers inside specific stores
In March of last year, The Frye Company partnered with the on-demand ride sharing app Via in a promotion to get customers into its SoHo store. Customers who took Via rides to a speciifc Frye store location on March 14th were gifted a $50 Frye gift card, in a promotion meant to drive in-store sales and promote Via’s ride sharing service. Other brands, like Timberland, have worked with competing ride sharing services to drive business to specific store locations, as well. Businesses of all sizes can contact on-demand startups directly for more information on how to launch limited-time partnerships.

4. Selling gift cards for on-demand apps
Stores with physical locations are starting to sell gift cards for on-demand apps right at the cash wrap, sitting alongside breath mints and gum. Starbucks has been a pioneer in this arena, selling $20 gift cards for Lyft rides at thousands of store locations across the U.S. since last August. Having gift cards displayed next to the point-of-sale is a benefit to the on-demand apps, of course, but it also serves as another way for brick-and-mortar businesses to upsell customers in the moments before their transactions are complete.

5. Generating new leads through mobile apps
Restaurants stand to gain some of the biggest benefits of on-demand services, as they rely more and more heavily on platforms like GrubHub and Postmates as sources of lead generation and delivery. Partnering with these services gives smaller restaurants an additional place to post their menus online, where those menus can then be seen by people who may not have even heard of the businesses before. This type of lead generation campaign is generally much less expensive than a traditiona media ad buy. On-demand delivery apps also give restaurants a way to sell to customers who can’t pick up their orders in person, thereby opening up an entirely new revenue stream to businesses without their own fleets of delivery drivers.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.