Retailers continue to rise to the occasion, which bodes well for omnichannel growth in 2021.

Dear Retailer:

I’ve always been a fan of buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) and have tracked its execution for more than 20 years since Circuit City, Sears and others first rolled it out. It’s come a long way, baby, as we like to say.

The pandemic certainly advanced the cause as more retailers added this capability—and for some, it served as a survival tool during the height of COVID-19. But now, it’s business as usual and early results from Adobe Analytics report that as online shopping picked up, consumers used curbside pickup in 18% of all online orders on Cyber Monday (for retailers that offer the service), versus 20% last year. Our Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights December 2021 Cyber 5 survey of 1,147 online shoppers showed that 13% placed an order for in-store pickup, while 9% used the curbside option.

In order to test how retailers are doing, I hit the streets as the holiday countdown clock ticked away. I used 15 metrics to understand how retailers were performing and/or identified where there was room for improvement.

I shopped and tested the 12 following retailer between Dec. 11-14. All purchases were picked up in the Chicagoland area, including urban and suburban locations:
• Best Buy
• Crate and Barrel
• Dick’s Sporting Goods
• Kohl’s
• Lululemon
• Macy’s
• Nordstrom
• Target
• Ulta
• Sephora
• Walmart
• Williams Sonoma


Here are 10 recommendations for retailers that want to foster a superior shopping experience. Each recommendation includes statistics from Digital Commerce 360’s mystery shopping, along with descriptive examples to put each example into context.

The promotion factor

No. 1: Give shoppers a reason to test BOPIS by providing clear delivery cutoff dates on the home page
Mystery Shopping Stat:
• 67% of the 12 tested retailers touted cutoff dates for ground delivery on their homepages
• 92% of the retailers promoted BOPIS and curbside pickup capabilities on their homepage

There’s no substitute for reminding shoppers that the time is now to finish their holiday shopping. Ulta does just that by suggesting that shoppers must place orders by Dec. 14 at 11:59 p.m. if they hope to get delivery before Christmas. Simultaneously, it also promotes, “Need it fast—pick up in-store or curbside.” This messaging is a stark visual reminder for shoppers viewing the homepage as the holiday countdown beats on.

ulta_promptingNordstrom wisely touts how to get gifts in time for Christmas with options for pickup and delivery including store pickup. Nordstrom shoppers can find this information in the retailer’s customer service section.
nordstrom_delivery options


Beyond the homepage, retailers should clearly communicate where shoppers can find the designated curbside once at the store location. This was not always the case. And despite promoting curbside pickup capabilities, three stores: Sephora, Lululemon and Williams Sonoma, only offered pick up inside the store. To be fair, when I inquired at each about curbside, the Williams Sonoma associate told me that you could call and they would bring it out to your car. When I read the online description more carefully, I realized Williams Sonoma did specify to call once you arrived.

w-s_pickup text with curbside phone number

Placing the order

No. 2: Make it easy to check for store availability and provide a clear path to select store pickup.

Unfortunately, only two out of the 12 tested retailers provided an exact inventory count. Despite this disappointment, I’ve come to expect it. On a positive note, in most instances I’ve encountered only a handful of cancelations over the years.

Mystery Shopping Stat:  67% of tested retailers did offer a place to list an alternative pickup person


It was nice to see that retailers extended this convenience, although only a few retailers checked my ID or asked for my name at time of pickup. To be fair, it might have been challenging to reinforce confirmation criteria via email or SMS text and most likely not a high-risk scenario for either retailer or shopper.

No. 3: Ensure that it is simple and intuitive to switch between delivery and pickup

In some instances, shoppers ready to check out are unsure whether pickup or delivery will meet their needs. Providing clear options, including delivery times and pickup availability, can be very valuable.

Best Buy includes both delivery, with a link to shipping status, as well as curbside and in store pickup options. They smartly call out their shipping deadlines. For in-store/curbside pickup, Best Buy provides the store location’s address and operating hours. It highlights its one-hour turnaround time and that it will hold the order for five days before canceling. Another positive is that shoppers can change the pickup location as needed. That is particularly helpful when determining which location to reserve the order based on low inventory, or whether an out-of-stock item at one store is available for pickup at a different location.


Unfortunately, when it came to Macy’s, I wasn’t sure whether products could really be picked up the day I attempted to place the order. As it turns out, I did receive a notification that it was ready for pickup within a few hours—but for shoppers that want to know exactly when their order will be ready, it’s a guessing game. A clear description of dates is essential because without better information, the shopper will either leave without making a purchase, or be compelled to contact customer service to find out more details before completing the purchase.

However, when I arrived at Macy’s to pick up my order, the associate I spoke to in order to confirm my location arrived donning reindeer antlers and I forgot about any confusion that happened along the way.

macys_cart inventory macys_reindeer

No. 4: Let me know how long the order will take to be processed
Mystery Shopping Stat: 10 out of 12, or 83% of retailers, listed a timeframe for when orders would be ready

Each retailer fell into one of two options which included:
1. Order by a certain time and pickup same-day (e.g. order by 5 p.m. for same-day pickup): Dick’s Sporting Goods, Crate and Barrel
2. Number hours to wait after an order is placed before it is available included the following lead times:
• One hour: Best Buy
• Two hours: Kohl’s, Lululemon, Sephora, Target, Ulta
• Three hours: Williams Sonoma


From an execution standpoint, the fastest ready-for-pick up time (in minutes) from their order confirmations were Best Buy (10 minutes), Dick’s Sporting Goods (16 minutes) and Williams Sonoma (23 minutes).

My belief is it’s always better to under promise and overdeliver—which these results indicate happened. Sephora’s shopping cart let me know that if I ordered by 4 p.m., it would be ready today. Sephora also alerted me that pickup orders are usually readily within two hours (actual time was 30 minutes) and that I would have five days to pick up my order. I recommend that retailers include this information early in the shopper journey as it can easily be missed otherwise.


No. 5: Provide timely communication when orders are processed and, more importantly, are ready for pickup
Mystery Shopping Stat: 100% of retailers confirm orders and send a ready-for-pickup email


I would encourage retailers to allow shoppers to opt-in to receive texts regarding their order. Seven out of 12 retailers gave me that option. Because I have shopped with some of these retailers in the past, they already had my profile information and texted me throughout the ordering and pickup process. I found it was much easier to access pickup details via SMS text compared with email and 67% of tested retailers used text communication.

Mystery Shopping Stat: Average time between initial processing communication and receipt of the ready-for-pickup confirmation email took slightly longer than 74 minutes

The 74-minute average timeframe is strong—especially given that I placed orders as early as 7 a.m. before some stores opened.

As you might imagine, not all ready-for-pickup emails are created equal. I’m a fan of those that are overtly forthcoming with details. Retailers should include the store address, phone number and clear directions about where I should go and what I should do upon arrival. It is helpful to also know how long a retailer will hold an order until I can pick it up. That information was harder to come by.


The app

No. 6: Put time-savers in place
The store app can be a timesaver when arriving at the store. And in some instances, like Target, the app included features catered to pickup, resulting in a three-minute order turnaround. Target sends a message such as, “Download the app before heading to the store,” or, “Tell the retailer you are on the way.”

target_use appWhile Target’s app made curbside pickup quick, I did not have Walmart’s app downloaded. As a result, it took me a few more minutes at Walmart to pick up my order.

The ability to check in easily saves the retailer time because workers can set aside customers’ packages in the store space designated for curbside delivery. I found it difficult to learn Walmart’s process and was forced to learn it before arriving to pick up my order. However, after I did, it proved to be worth it as the order was at my car in less than a minute between check-in to receipt.

walmart_pickup text

Clearly, retailers have gone the extra mile continuing to improve the user experience. I noticed that Dick’s Sporting Goods had a new and improved visual interface, while Target promoted a secure transaction by asking for my signature at pick up. Walmart noted that I could use Apple’s SIRI virtual assistant on my iPhone when picking up in the future.


Most of all, it’s about including clear and detailed directions, which are particularly welcomed by first-timers who don’t know the drill yet. Dick’s Sporting Goods had both in-store and curbside directions along with a follow-up, “Describe your ride” functionality, as did other retailers. Distinctive check-in times and delivery statuses make shopping a more pleasurable experience.

dicks_app instructions


dicks_ride dicks_status

Finally, make sure shoppers can use any of the options, including the retailer’s app, email correspondence and texting options for a smooth experience. In the case of Nordstrom, the app did not allow me to put in my parking information, which required me to repeat additional steps to complete check-in and pick up.

The pickup experience

No. 7: Limit wait times
Mystery Shopping Stat: Wait time for orders was 4.66 minutes from the time checked in


Several retailers, including Nordstrom, Macy’s and Crate & Barrel, took 11 minutes, which I still consider to be within the acceptable range. Kudos to those who took two minutes or less: Best Buy, Sephora, Ulta, Walmart and Williams Sonoma.

Make sure there is designated curbside pick up parking. While I was able to find parking for each curbside pickup experience during this round, without designated spots, that might not always be the case. Retailers that kept me updated throughout the ordering and pick up process was refreshing and advisable.

nordstrom_time for pickup

Nordstrom’s ready for pick up alert.

No. 8: Place signage in a prominent position giving customers options
Crate and Barrel made it easy to locate their pickup location and gave me multiple ways to communicate with them.


Crate and Barrel signage.

No. 9: Remind shoppers of the extras
It never hurts to let the customer know about loyalty programs. Williams Sonoma and Walmart promoted such programs while I was shopping.


No. 10: Extend return dates to give recipients extra time
Mystery Shopping Stat: 83% of surveyed retailers extended return dates

Many retailers communicated clear return dates, which ranged from Jan. 15 through Jan. 31. Return date criteria was more complicated for some depending on the products sold, as was the case with Walmart. Others, like Nordstrom, already have a no-questions-asked policy that is 365 days a year, so no extension is needed.


A word of advice to shoppers: read the fine print. And retailers should make sure to ensure holiday shopping is customer-centric.

A perfect curbside order
Curbside pickup is an art form. It starts with a shopping journey that is complete with information about inventory to clear turnaround expectations. Strong communication makes for a smoother pick up process. Retailers must constantly think about how they can save shoppers time. A retailer’s app interface must be easy to navigate and supportive personnel in place in order to complete the process quickly and efficiently, keeping shoppers happy.