Omnichannel has forever changed during the pandemic, and for retailers and many shoppers, it is simply part of their shopping vernacular. Digital Commerce 360, in conjunction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1,132 online shoppers to gauge how their behavior had changed relative to omnichannel activities. We also examined how it has impacted physical store shopping and the embrace of virtual services that further connect customers to those stores.
Omnichannel activities are readily embraced by online shoppers from checking inventory availability to picking up in-store to same-day delivery
Checking inventory availability is now integral to the online shopping experience, as over half of surveyed shoppers indicate it is part of their omnichannel routine.
The further reinforcement of post-pandemic behavior is evident as shopper adoption numbers include in-store pickup (37%), curbside or drive-up (25%), along with associated conveniences such as the 20% who use the store’s designated pickup parking spaces. In order to survive during the pandemic, local retailers were forced to adopt omnichannel services, and 29% of our survey respondents reported ordering from a local retailer for in-store or curbside pickup.
Shopper interest in getting products faster resulted in participants taking advantage of same-day delivery options from both web and store-based retailers. The greatest interest was among web-only retailers likely fueled by Amazon at 36%, while store-based retailers were close behind at 27%.
A new omnichannel service on the horizon is curbside returns. 4% of respondents currently use it. As much of the functionality is already in place to facilitate these transactions, I would expect that more retailers will add this capability as a convenience for their shoppers. As a shopper, I rarely mind skipping the return store visit, so this service has great appeal. To date, I am aware that both Nordstrom and Dick’s Sporting Goods offer this service.
Retailers realize residual gains including incremental shopping during both pickup and return visits, with 19% making additional purchases at pickup and 15% during their return trips. Some may believe there is a big upside to store visits that come as a result of omnichannel activity, but only 14% of respondents reported that they visited stores more as a result of such activities.
Loyalty program participation is strong, as 29% of shoppers signaled their participation. A look at some of the trends taking place and their impact on omnichannel shows limited early adoption. 9% used financing to make a store pickup purchase, and the same number reporting they completed an in-store pickup after viewing an ad while streaming.
Online shoppers leverage apps to buy and streamline omnichannel activities
Apps are facilitating shopper activity, including purchasing products (44%) and locating products in stores (31%). When thoughtfully designed, the app also is ideal for picking up products in-store or curbside, as 25% of those surveyed noted.
QR code use accelerated after it became a part of our everyday lives during the pandemic. Shoppers reported they used bar-code scanners to get product information (22%), while 14% also used such codes to buy in non-store physical locations.
While in-store, 14% made purchases, and 13% used in-store device checkout. I really appreciate its value when stores are busy. Mobile devices also helped shoppers connect with stores, as 15% took product images and shared that search with a retailer to find a product match. 10% of shoppers made a purchase after interacting with an ad on a mobile device. One can conclude the more services that come into play for shoppers that save them time, the more likely it is that shoppers will embrace them.
Shoppers use mobile devices to connect with retailer associates, too, another instance of a service that kicked off during COVID that is seeing some traction. That includes 10% who texted a retailer for customer service and the 7% who completed a virtual appointment.
Shoppers will continue to seek out conveniences, including store-based return options, as the survey reveals 24% returned an order to non-Amazon retailers.
In-store and curbside pickups now standard fare
Shoppers embrace in-store and curbside pickups, as 77% of surveyed shoppers completed an in-store or curbside pickup in the past six months. Our research has shown that once tested, online shoppers continue to adopt omnichannel pickup options in greater numbers. The fact that 25% completed 11 or more pickups suggests their value to shoppers.
Convenience and time-savings propel online shoppers to leverage omnichannel options
There has long been debate about the reasons shoppers choose both buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside services. Ultimately, convenience and time-savings equally foster this behavior, as 44% of survey respondents revealed. In the convenience vein, 14% cited weather, and in some cases, omnichannel options were the only way to get the order for 12%.
Shoppers have heightened expectations and interest in fast delivery. 29% simply wanted their products the same day, while 26% needed products faster than home delivery would allow. Saving money will always be a factor for shoppers, and this played into the hands of the 35% who wanted to avoid shipping fees. On a side note, using these services helped with budgetary matters, as 13% don’t make any in-store impulse purchases.
Of course, for some, they continue to be in a store avoidance mode (33%), while others just appreciate that online is a safer mode (21%). Inventory access and availability directs shopper behavior and channel choice, as 25% have the confidence they will get exactly what they need, while 15% felt more confident that the product would be available given all of the supply chain woes. It also served the 15% of shoppers well when online was not available.
Shopper satisfaction with in-store and/or curbside pickup is strong, which bodes well for even greater adoption and more investment in future initiatives. Seasoned omnichannel retailers and newbies rose to the occasion, executing in-store and curbside initiatives well.
Curbside sees slightly higher satisfaction rates relative to BOPIS. One can surmise that is the case because it was the initial omnichannel choice for online shoppers.
Product availability, store wait times and initial turnaround once customers place orders drive shopper satisfaction
When it comes to satisfaction, it always comes down to inventory. That means being in stock for same-day pickup availability as 33% of the respondents suggested. The quality of the overall experience is also important and ranks No. 2 among survey respondents.
Timing also matters from placing the order until it is ready for pickup, as well as the store experience with communication. All three aspects of timing reached similar levels of importance relative to satisfaction and were identified:
- Wait time upon arrival at the store: 28%
- Ability to schedule within desired time windows: 27%
- Turnaround time when store pickup is ready: 26%
Convenient pickup locations are critical to a smooth experience, from the parking lot to the in-store pickup counter. Ranking highest was the quality of pickup experience (29%), the ease of finding the pickup location in the parking lot (22%), store hours for pickup (18%) and of course the ease of finding the in-store pickup location (16%). By ensuring pickup locations are well positioned, retailers can usually ensure a better overall experience. And speaking of convenience, I find a retailer’s mobile app much more important than the 18% of participants suggested in our results. It’s certainly a time-saver and thus may have played into those numbers.
Human experience at 15%, while important, does not play as significant a role in shopper satisfaction though retailer communication came in somewhat higher at 18%. Today, this is likely just an expectation on the part of shoppers.
Limited frustration around store and curbside pickups
More than 1 in 3 shoppers has experienced no frustration with in-store or curbside pickups, which supports the high satisfaction rates we’ve just shared. Omnichannel initiatives are strong, driving high satisfaction rates. Limited difficulties exist with timing, communication and logistics. Some of those cited included the 18% of shoppers who have received incorrect items or substitutions, which often occur with groceries. Timing issues were called out by a limited number of those who had to stand in line at the store (18%) or experienced unreasonable wait times to get their orders brought to the car (17%), and the 12% who felt the retailer took too long to pull an order and notify them.
A handful reported convenience issues as well, with 14% citing a tough time finding in-store location and parking spaces (13%). Pickup box usage was problematic for just 7%. Communication and the people factor were in play for limited numbers, with 12% receiving confusing retailer instructions or communication, 10% facing rude or incompetent associates, and just a few being unable to contact the retailer when issues arose (9%).
Now, it will be about maintaining such strong execution standards to keep satisfaction at such high levels.
The store’s role is shifting
One couldn’t help but wonder what the post-pandemic impact on the physical store might be. The supply chain has taken its toll, and customers find retail out-of-stocks more prevalent (56%) and in-store assortments more limited (42%).
Almost happening in parallel, retailers had increased their omnichannel initiatives and services. Store omnichannel initiatives have expanded, with 31% believing retailers are increasingly adopting omnichannel services (31%). It also appears to 28% of surveyed shoppers that more attention is being paid to online services in the stores.
Some online shoppers continue to look for ways to avoid going into stores (23%) while 22% have homed in on shopping at just a handful of retailers.
Services are growing, starting with virtual appointments (21%) for same-day delivery, which was cited by 21% of those surveyed.
The store will remain in transition for some time, so monitoring shifts should be informative.
Virtual services gain ground
Almost half of shoppers have used virtual services with generally good experiences, and COVID certainly pushed shoppers to test them. It’s a plus to see that usage was strong with the following trial numbers:
- More than 5 times: 27%
- 3-5 times: 21%
- 1-2 times: 28%
Retailers rose to the occasion, and efforts were appreciated pushing satisfaction rates to elevated levels with 34% giving virtual services a positive score while 14% found them adequate.
Omnichannel almost seems omnipresent
From large to local retailers, many options are on the table. Shoppers enjoy the efficiencies that come from checking inventory to choosing the most convenient pickup options. Mobile devices remain central to completing tasks. The customer embrace of omnichannel will be able to grow as more services are added and retailer performance delivers high satisfaction rates among shoppers. Time-savings will always be in favor, so the onus is on the retailer to innovate and deliver new services. Based on past experiences, we can be sure the shoppers will embrace.