In the early days of the Internet revolution, many people believed that e-commerce would eclipse traditional brick-and-mortar shops. Although e-commerce has indeed changed the way many companies do business, it is clear that brick-and-mortar stores are still crucial. Yet businesses still face challenges when integrating an e-commerce solution. For example, what if your e-commerce site becomes too successful? How can you avoid the cannibalization of your brick-and-mortar stores, while still maintaining a strong Internet presence?
Rhodes Furniture, a 126-year old company based in Atlanta, has discovered how to harness the power of the Internet without threatening the livelihood of its traditional furniture stores. In June, they launched a revamped version of their site, which works in concert with its 80 company stores. By treating their website like another store, rather than a complete e-commerce solution, rhodesfurniture.com can offer their customers the convenience of shopping at home without draining business from their physical outlets.
The formula is simple: Rhodes Furniture will only accept on-line orders from customers who live within 50 miles of any of their stores. Any company that has been in business for over a century knows that they're doing something right: Quality products, low prices and strong customer service skills have long been their recipe for success. But in the 21st century, they were looking to expand their customer base.
The Rhodes Company has always relied on forward thinking. After opening his first store in 1875, founder Amos G. Rhodes implemented what would eventually become the world's first installment payment plan. That spirit of forward thinking is still alive and well at Rhodes Furniture, so its no surprise that this company opted to explore new, and perhaps slightly unusual, Internet strategies.
For many businesses, e-commerce can be as threatening as it can be innovative. Many business owners are concerned that an online store may siphon off the profits of their physical stores, or decrease their foot traffic. Rhodes Furniture was determined to sidestep this dilemma altogether by eliminating the competitive aspect of their web site. They simply will not deliver to shoppers who are not ordinarily within the delivery area of their 80 stores- and with stores currently in 13 states, Rhodes now reaches almost 30% of the country. Has it worked? Yes. In the months since the re-launch of the website, the geographic stretch of their customer base has increased by over 10%.