As Shoppers Embrace Curbside Pickup, Retailers Score Low on Execution

As safety-conscious consumers have embraced “click and collect” and curbside pickup, new consumer data suggests that some current services aren’t fully meeting their expectations.

In a survey conducted by Incisiv and commissioned by Manhattan Associates of more than 2,500 shoppers in the U.S. during the first week of August, 85 percent of respondents had significantly increased their use of curbside pickup since COVID-19, while 80 percent expect to increase this engagement further during the next six months. And nearly 80 percent described contactless pickup as “very important” to them.

Same-day “need of product” was ranked as the top motivation for visiting stores by 88 percent of those surveyed, therefore e-commerce businesses risk losing out on those purchases if they can’t provide that speed of fulfillment.

Maintaining the balance between customer desire and safety is another challenge; the survey found that even though 74 percent miss in-store product trials, only 5 percent would be willing to resume those in the next six months. But buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup have enabled consumers to retain some of their favorite parts of the in-store experience while staying safe, such as providing instant gratification of purchase (100 percent of respondents).

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This led to the mass adoption of these services, but Incisiv found that retailers are consistently falling short in terms of quality and safety. Consumers ranked in-store experiences as 4.68 out of 5 for safety and cleanliness, while pickup services scored 3.9 out of 5. Similarly, the overall curbside and BOPIS experiences performed badly, scoring 3.53 and 3.56 respectively. The three biggest complaints were lack of in-store availability; difficulty booking preferred pickup times, and difficulty filtering for products available for pickup.

“In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic shoppers had little choice but to overlook friction in the online ordering and store pick-up experience — not anymore,” the report said. “With continued growth in adoption expected over the next six months, shoppers will switch loyalties to retailers who offer more seamless experiences.”

Incisiv assessed which were the most important features for consumers who participate in an omnichannel shopping experience beginning online and finishing in-store. For those browsing online before shopping at stores, the ability to see available store inventory was the most important (91 percent), even more so than store hours.

Those preparing for curbside pickup or BOPIS valued the ability to see which stores offered those services (100 percent); which products were eligible for those services (99 percent); and easy availability of pickup dates and times (94 percent). Consumers were much less interested in complicated digital experiences, with 0 percent reporting that they would want to be able to virtually browse the store.

The investments that many online merchants have made to their platforms appear to have paid off, with 85 percent of consumers scoring the online ordering experience four stars or higher. The fulfillment of these purchases, however, has created friction and is therefore where retailers should be turning their attention. In particular, the wait time was scored 3 stars or lower by 64 percent of respondents.

“Shoppers rate their recent checkout and pick-up experiences poorly across a variety of parameters,” said the report. “With shoppers demanding speed, immediacy and convenience, the checkout and pick-up customer journey becomes critically important for retailers. If retailers don’t improve [these] experiences, there is little likelihood they will retain shopper loyalty for long.”

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