Nearly everything about the retail shopping experience has changed since the pandemic. One of the biggest differences is the way customers receive their items.
Rewind to a year ago to compare. Customers primarily used two channels: buy online and have products shipped to their homes or buy products in stores.
Buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) seemed to be picking up steam in recent years mainly for grocery stores and during the holiday season for some retailers. However, there wasn’t widespread adoption.
Then came the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.
Online ordering and at-home shipment surged. During the first half of 2020 shoppers spent $347.26B online, 30% more than the same timeframe in 2019.
Between April and June alone, online spending increased almost 50% year-over-year (YOY).
As stay-at-home orders continued, stores that were able to pivot quickly started offering BOPIS with a curbside pickup option. BOPIS orders skyrocketed in August of 2020, with a 259% increase YOY.
Then as restrictions eased, stores opened up and shoppers started coming back in. And now they want multiple options for BOPIS: both curbside and in-store pickup for online purchases.
The pandemic multiplied fulfillment options in a very short period of time.
Customers can buy online items for at-home shipping, have items shipped to a specific store, and buy in-store products online for pickup. Any of these combinations could be on one order. And that’s before the customer arrives at the store, if there’s a store pickup.
Customers need clear communication about what to do and which pick-up options are available. Staff need to be reallocated and physical stores may need to be reorganized for easy order retrieval.
That’s a lot of change to take on at lightning speed, and not all of it has been successful. Though roughly 75% of the top 50 retailers have implemented curbside pickup since the pandemic started, problems abound.
According to Incisiv’s 2020 Shopper Study, “The New Store Shopper In High-Touch Retail,” respondents had low opinions of their online ordering and pickup experiences.
- Availability of preferred pickup time: 2.40 average rating out of 5.0
- Availability of products for pickup: 2.70 average rating out of 5.0
- Wait time for pickup at the store: 3.10 average rating out of 5.0
Omnichannel Fulfillment Bridges the Gap
In order to retain customers, retailers must work towards improving the customer experience for shoppers who want to make purcahses on their terms.
By leveraging an omnichannel strategy for fulfillment, retailers can connect all channels and create a seamless experience for customers.
In-store and Parking Lot Experience
It starts with the back-end infrastructure to manage omnichannel fulfillment. For each physical location, retailers must determine how to allocate in-store staff to manage the pickup process.
They need to review floor space available in each store for order storage and retrieval, and determine an in-store pickup spot for shoppers who come in the store.
Retailers also need to create the outside-the-store experience: do customers park in a designated spot, a general area, or pull up to the curb?
Signage that tells customers what to do when they arrive is critical, as it contributes to another key metric. Speed of pickup ranked as “very important” for 84% of shoppers.
Omnichannel Digital Communication
Retailers also need a streamlined way to communicate with customers about their orders across multiple channels. A robust e-commerce platform lets customers know which products are available at specific physical stores, what the BOPIS options are (contactless and/or in-store), and when they can pick up.
These functions are critical to shoppers, with over 90% reporting that online viewing of in-store inventory is the most important thing when planning a store visit.
Once the order is placed, customers require constant notifications: which products are being shipped to their homes, which ones are available for pickup (and when).
Standard email notifications are not fast enough when 80% of shoppers expect to interact digitally with store associates in the next 6 months.
Customers need to be able to engage in real-time with store associates when they arrive for pickup via text, Facebook Messenger, or a variety of other mobile apps.
Retailers who want to succeed will put serious effort into customer notification processes, as it’s an area where customers are already quite dissatisfied.
Respondents in the “The New Store Shopper In High-Touch Retail” rated communication aspects of BOPIS and curbside pickup poorly, with a 3-star or less rating of the following:
Customer demand for pickups, contact-less or in-store is here to stay.
Let’s face it: the behaviors shoppers adopted to survive during the pandemic have turned into habits. Over three-quarters of shoppers expect to use BOPIS and curbside pickup more frequently in the next 6 months.
They’re also twice as likely to place an online order for BOPIS or curbside pickup than to buy in-store. There’s no going back now.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was ok to start out scrappy.
Take Dick’s Sporting Goods: they introduced curbside pickup and simply had a phone number in the front window to call upon arrival. Now that we’re more than half a year into it, shoppers expect more.
They want easy, centralized communication on product availability, order status, and pickup logistics. If they don’t get it, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
At Linc, we’re constantly developing new offerings to support retailers in their increasingly complex quest to serve customers and deliver experiences that drive brand loyalty.
Want to learn more about our new omnichannel fulfillment features?
Explore Linc Omnichannel Conversational AI Platform, or Schedule a Demo to speak with one of our customer experience automation experts.
Learn more about Omnichannel AI and how it can reduce customer support inquiries by up to 94%.