In our Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights pre-holiday survey of 1,088 online shoppers in September 2022, 27% of respondents indicated they would likely be placing an online order for pickup at a store, while 17% would take advantage of curbside pickup.
I have long been a fan of both options and know that it’s important to monitor shopping experiences to see what’s new and, in this case, what’s different than the past. With that in mind, I placed 10 orders on Cyber Monday to see how retailers fared. I purposely chose this day to see if there would be any fallout from the Cyber 5 weekend. Pickups were everywhere from urban locations to suburban malls. Retailers shopped included:
- Best Buy
- Crate & Barrel
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
Omnichannel promotion is prominent
Retailers understand the contribution that store-fulfilled orders are making to their businesses. Based on this small group of 11 retailers, 55% gave presence to store pickup and curbside options on their homepages. Past experience suggests there may be an uptick as we get closer to ground shipping cut-offs.
Michael’s dedicates home page real estate to BOPIS capabilities
What I’ve learned in past mystery shopping is that not all retailers offer curbside at every store. That can be confusing for shoppers. I found it helpful that Michael’s included all my shopping options in a convenient top-navigation location.
Michael’s articulates each stores range of services
Readiness time windows for curbside pickup are forthcoming
It’s always helpful to give shoppers a sense of the lead time to pick their orders, and 73% of retailers did just that. The quickest was Best Buy Co. Inc., which suggested its orders would be ready within an hour. In fact, it notified me 29 minutes later.
Two hours seemed to be most typical window with Target, Williams-Sonoma and Michael’s promising such turnaround while Walmart gave me a three-hour window.
Rather than specify a time, Macy’s said consumers who ordered by 4:00 p.m. would have items available for same-day pickup. As it turned out, the retailer was unable to honor that. Instead, my 11:20 a.m. order was not available until the following morning at 8:12 a.m., just under 21 hours.
I just missed Crate and Barrel’s noon cutoff window, which seems early for same-day orders. Despite that, the retailer pulled the order for a 10:02 a.m. ready time the next day, likely when the store opened.
Ready for pickup times vary widely
Looking at all the orders, retailers’ overall time to have orders ready for pickup from the time the order was placed was just shy of four hours (3 hours 54 minutes).
Those clocking in at under 30 minutes:
- Dick’s Sporting Goods (7 minutes)
- Kohl’s (19 minutes)
- Target (29 minutes)
Retailers that took more than two hours:
- Crate&Barrel (9 hours 57 minutes)
- Macy’s (4 hours 12 minutes)
- Nordstrom (3 hours 57 minutes)
Lastly, two days post-order, I have yet to receive an order-ready message from J.Crew, so stay tuned.
Retailers strive for limited wait times upon arrival
For the eight retailers where I was able to make a pickup, the average time I spent waiting in the car once I arrived was a respectable seven minutes. The quickness of those who appear to be invested in curbside is a testament to their interest. Of course, it’s a matter of location and readiness on the part of the retailer, but Target and Nordstrom took a speedy one minute and both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Michael’s took just three minutes.
Best Buy and Crate and Barrel were the outliers at 20 minutes and 17 minutes, respectively. I will share some of my experiences as well as those that never had a chance. I couldn’t help but sense that staffing challenges played into these delays.
Communication is appreciated
No one wants to wait any longer than they need to for pickups. While searching for a product, Best Buy alerted me about its quite busy pickup times and gave me the option to choose another store. As it turns out, I did but ended up with a 20-minute wait regardless.
On a high note, it did let me know about pending delays when I tried to communicate with the retailer. After 10 minutes wait time in my parking spot, I tried again as I didn’t see any associates heading out and received this message. It was in fact another 10 minutes.
One of the most interesting things I encountered was that curbside pickup may have lost some of its muster among retailers post-pandemic. When I first went to Kohl’s in Chicago and pulled into the spaces that had been dedicated to curbside, I noticed the signage had been covered in cloth and thought they might have been short-staffed on Cyber Monday.
I even returned the following day just to be sure and instead, what I found is that curbside is no longer an option. Kohl’s redirected me to self-service to pick up my orders, which I consider a downgrade from the full-service model I preferred.
I arrived for my Williams-Sonoma pickup in Old Orchard. Knowing that the location was a loading dock, I called the store and was advised to call again upon arrival.
Less than 10 minutes later, I reached out and the associate emphatically advised me that they wouldn’t be able to help me as they had just received 100 boxes. She suggested I stop back later or tomorrow. While I can appreciate the challenge of dealing with 100 boxes, a customer shouldn’t be penalized for bad timing.
Staffing should be in place to support omnichannel initiatives
Macy’s was a mixed bag, and after finding my way through the many aisles of parking, I did finally come across a curbside checkout spot. Unfortunately, when I first entered my information, I was greeted with the following message.
Macy’s inability to process a curbside order
I decided to wait and resubmit the “I’m here” message, and ultimately, a cranky associate dropped off my package. It makes me wonder whether there is an on/off switch for curbside pickup, which would certainly be frustrating for shoppers who hope to save time and have the ultimate convenience. On a side note, when I tried the phone number, it appeared to go to a general number rather than the local store. The good news was that once I did retry 10 minutes later, my package arrived in four minutes.
Crate and Barrel was atypical from other pickups I have done there in the past. There were two cars in front of me, and I couldn’t really pull into the queue without blocking traffic. I put in the alert at 11:25 that I had arrived. I waited patiently. The associate eventually came to the car and asked for my name again. Once she went back to the stockroom, she called to say she’d be out with my order. It was a long 17 minutes, but her positive demeanor made up for some of the annoyance.
Reinforce retail initiatives
I can’t help but admire Walmart for promoting its Black Friday deals. My only concern was that it was Tuesday, and those deals were likely over. Either way, a great opportunity for retailers to leverage this visible real estate as shoppers wait for their purchases.
Walmart leverages parking spots to promote Black Friday
In the spirit of giving, I’d like to leave retailers with four recommendations to optimize the curbside experience from start to finish.
- Alert shoppers how long it typically takes for orders to be ready and meet those deadlines
- Promote omnichannel initiatives on-site if it’s mission-critical to your business
- Clearly communicate when orders are ready with explicit instructions and a phone number just in case
- Be timely and pleasant when shoppers arrive curbside, as these are your brand ambassadors