Lauren Freedman, consumer insights analyst at Digital Commerce 360, delves into the details on in-store and curbside pickup given the growing interest among consumers and retailers alike.

I know retailers are thinking curbside might just take a turn for the worse when the pandemic comes to an end. I respectfully disagree, as I believe we are still in the early stages of shopper adoption. Digital Commerce 360, in conjunction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1,052 online shoppers about their omnichannel behavior. To me, it tells the story of why curbside is just beginning to hit its stride. I will share that story and then touch on three reasons I believe it has staying power.

Let us start with the fact that 64% of online shoppers intend to order more online in the next six months. If we have learned anything, it is that past experience predicts future shopping behavior. Year over year, all metrics point to increased usage and curbside sees the greatest gains (35% vs. 13%).

Let’s delve into the details on in-store and curbside pickup given the growing interest among consumers and retailers alike. COVID-19 pushed shoppers to complete curbside orders with in-store pickup still popular. 75% of surveyed shoppers completed an in-store or curbside pickup in the past six months with 22% completing 11 or more. It is our premise that once tested, online shoppers will likely continue to adopt omnichannel pickup options in greater numbers.

Shoppers took advantage of in-store and curbside pickup across all retail segments. They welcome omnichannel options from a multitude of merchants with specialty stores, grocery stores and retail powerhouses including Walmart and Target all attracting significant attention. The myriad of stores that adopted these options drove positive results and fostered the growing interest in these services. Local retailers have an opportunity to compete with larger chains from an omnichannel perspective, and 19% positively took advantage of such initiatives from a curbside pickup point-of-view. When every store segment yields curbside interest, it is easy to be confident about its forthcoming growth.

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While the pandemic propelled interest, execution sealed sales among online shoppers. Seasoned omnichannel retailers and newbies rose to the occasion well, executing both in-store and curbside initiatives. These high satisfaction rates will continue to accelerate omnichannel adoption and frequency.

Three reasons why curbside resonates with omnichannel buyers

  1. Shoppers are control freaks.

Online shoppers are no longer taking availability for granted. More than anything they need to know if you have the product they want in stock. When asked what activities were part of their shopping behavior over the past six months, the No. 1 answer was the 58% who said they checked online for inventory availability. Just this morning, I needed a vale for a blind. Even though the store was only two miles away, I wanted to be sure before I made the trip. With no website option that could show me in-store availability, I had to go the old-fashioned route taking pictures of the product and texting it to the store. They did respond in short order, which was a positive, but I have come to expect more. And in most instances, these omnichannel options are now available from best-in-class retailers.

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Another important indicator was when shoppers were asked what was most important in assigning one’s satisfaction for in-store or curbside pickup. Once again, the availability of product for same-day pickup was cited by 43%. There is simply no disputing that if there is no product in stock, there will be no sale.

  1. There is no substitute for saving time.

We are a time-starved society, and we prefer to use our time smartly. Particularly with being pent up over the past year, spending our time in more fulfilling ways has a new meaning. For those who may not favor in-store shopping, curbside was their ready-made solution for shopping. It allowed shoppers to pick up at their convenience and the window that retailers extended put the control in the shoppers’ hands. With pickup times typically under five minutes, it is hard to beat curbside.

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The top three reasons that shoppers elected a BOPIS (buy online pick up in store) or curbside experience was time-related. While 46% specifically mentioned they can save time, wanting to avoid a store visit at 47% and the convenience of it all point directly to time-savings as well.

  1. Mobile fuels curbside efficiency.

Another way shoppers are saving time is by leveraging mobile. Apps over the years continue to get better and our research indicated that 49% of online shoppers surveyed had used a mobile app to buy a product. 31% had used the app to locate a product in store and 28% to facilitate curbside pickup. Mobile has changed the game for many shoppers. Whatever my need, like others, I simply grab my phone and in a matter of minutes, I have located inventory, consummated my transaction and am on the way to the store. That is time-savings at its finest.

Online shoppers have a plan as time is a precious commodity. They start with inventory lookup and end with curbside pickup. Mobile facilitates all this behavior. In a race to save time, I believe shopper adoption of curbside still has room to grow. It will be a required service of all store-based retailers. Shoppers will increase their frequency and expand the range of stores they shop this way. With a blueprint in place for execution, satisfaction rates should also continue to rise. Online buyers will once again be the winners and have more time to spend their way.

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