TECHNOLOGY

Study: What consumers expect when they buy online, pick up in store

BY Haroon Abbu, Ph.D.

In the age of evolving consumer preferences enabled by digital technologies, customers continue demanding convenience and ease of use while shopping online. Additionally, they want instant gratification of purchasing items in the store and, increasingly, a combination of the two. To this effect, the buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) option, or click and collect experience, has become a key component of customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue growth.

For retailers, click and collect has become a key component of their overall digital commerce strategy, allowing them to leverage their brick-and-mortar stores to provide a more convenient and personal buying experience while helping them save money. Once the online customer is physically in the store to pick up their items, businesses have a unique opportunity to entice them to make additional purchases. In fact, 69% of consumers who used BOPIS this past holiday season purchased additional items while picking up in a store. Additionally, 36% of shoppers using those types of services made another purchase in an adjacent store at the time of pickup.

Bell and Howell conducted a survey-based study of 530 random shoppers from across the United States to analyze what these shoppers believe to be most important about their click-and- collect experience.(Seventy percent of the shoppers used the option in the last year.) The study revealed that the three essential elements of click-and-collect are cost, speed and convenience.

Here are some key findings from the study:

• Financial motivation (i.e., saving on shipping charges) was the key driver (76%) for selecting the BOPIS option. Speed and convenience (the urgency of picking up an item on the same day) was next in importance.

• A quick in-and-out experience is at the top of customers’ minds while picking up items at the store. No waiting in line, ease of finding the pickup location, a dedicated pickup counter, and designated parking spots may contribute to the quick in-and-out experience.

• When it comes to being notified, speed was once again the consistent theme, as 83% expected to hear back within 24 hours or less after placing an order online that their item is ready for pickup. Nearly 60% expected to hear within the first four hours.

• Convenience was the key driver for pickup location, as 77% preferred to pick up their items either at the front of the store or curbside. Only 8% were willing to pick up their items at the back of the store.

• Eighty percent expect to be able pick up their items in under 10 minutes from the time they enter the store, with a full 27% expecting less than four minutes

• Consumers rated filling orders accurately and in time as the most important aspect of an excellent experience. The option to pay in-store, a try-and-buy option, and dedicated parking spots are less important.

Summary

It is clear from the study that consumers want speed, convenience and timely communication for a better BOPIS experience. Currently, a small portion of total purchases are completed through click and collect, but it is growing in use, with 49% of Americans trying it for the first time in 2016.

Retailers can benefit from creating a winning in-store experience — 59% of buyers expect to purchase additional items at least some of the time. Retailers should explore if they can provide incentives to convert the 41% of customers who are not likely to purchase additional items.

It is interesting to note that 77% of shoppers did not want to be dragged all the way to the back of the store to pick up their items. Businesses should balance their financial motives to upsell patrons entering their stores to pick up their items with the speed and convenience that they expect.

Retailers should focus on creating a winning in-store experience by enabling what matters most to click and collect consumers: speed, convenience and timely communication.


Haroon Abbu is senior director of data and analytics at Bell and Howell.

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon maintains price advantage on Prime Day

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Early indications are that competitors didn't give Amazon much competition price-wise on Prime Day.

The third annual shopping extravaganza, which kicked off on July 10 at 6 pm PST and was scheduled to run until the wee hours of the morning of July 12, was originally introduced as a way to reward existing Prime shoppers and attract new ones. With promises of new deals every five minutes, the company reported on Tuesday that customers worldwide are shopping at “record levels,” according to CNBC.

It appears that Prime Day deals enjoyed a competitive price advantage, even against the many retailers that held their own shopping Prime Day promotions and attempted to match their price. Indeed, Amazon offered "compelling" discounts on Prime Day this year, featuring an average savings of 40% off, according to an analysis by Market Track.

"Amazon maintained a distinct competitive price advantage on Prime Day deals even against retailers that attempted to match their price, said Ryne Misso, director of marketing for Market Track. “In a price comparison on over 50 Prime Day Deals, Amazon was priced 15% lower than Walmart, 29% lower than Jet, and over 40% lower than Best Buy and Target, on average. However, both Walmart and Jet matched Amazon’s price on several Prime Day Deals.”

Almost 24 hours into the sale, the top shopped categories were “home chefs,” “for the home,” and “techies.” Across the techies category alone, “Amazon has already sold more than twice as many Echo family devices than last year's full Prime Day in the U.S., and more than three times worldwide,” said Amazon spokeswoman Lynsey Kehrli.

Prime members have also already ordered millions of items from small businesses and entrepreneurs. These top selling items include the 23andMe DNA Test and Senso Bluetooth headphones, Kehrli added.

Deals offered by Amazon’s third-party sellers had, on average, a 45% discount vs. a 35% discount for items shipped and sold by Amazon.

Amazon used a variety of methods to spread the word about its deals, including mobile-based flash sales.

“Amazon’s flash sale technique grabs consumers’ attention by offering an almost gamified experience where consumers have limited minutes of time to take advantage of that sale on their mobile devices,” said Casey Gannon, VP of marketing, Shopgate.

Amazon took care also to make it easier to place orders — as well as receive them. For example, the online giant integrated Alexa “voice shopping” into this year’s Prime Day mix. To date, 70.6% of Alexa owners have an Amazon Prime account, according to data from LivePerson.

“Voice automation, and particularly ‘voice commerce’ [v-commerce] within the home has been growing quickly, following the sleeper success of Amazon Alexa, and copycat devices,” said Rurik Bradbury, global head of communications and research, LivePerson.

“We surveyed 500 Alexa users the week before Prime Day, and even before today’s big Amazon push to get consumers to order via voice, over 70% of users had placed an e-commerce order using Alexa,” Bradbury added. “That’s a very high number for consumer adoption of a technology that is still quite new, and bodes well for bots in e-commerce.

Nearly 70% of the Alexa-only Prime Day deals were for CPG products. These ranged from candy to home consumables, such as paper towels and toilet paper, according to Market Track.

This year, Amazon had its own air support for its biggest shopping day. The company noted that its Prime Air “cargo planes are [also] fueled and ready to support Prime Day in the U.S. for the first time.”

“By having their own distribution network they can avoid packages going into shipping hubs and ship directly to customers,” said Patrick Penfield, professor of practice, supply chain management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. “Prime Day is a great way to test and refine these new internal shipping and logistics processes.”

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TECHNOLOGY

America’s favorite home improvement retailer is…

BY Marianne Wilson

A smaller-format, neighborhood-oriented retailer beat out big-box competitors to rank as the nation's favorite home improvement retailer in a just-released study.

Ace Hardware, known for its neighborly service and an intense focus on the customer experience, earned the top spot, with a composite loyalty score of 63%, in a study by Market Force Information.

Menards ranked second, with a 60% score, followed by Lowe’s, with 55%, and Home Depot, with 51%. (In order to be included in the category, a traditional home improvement brand must have been selected by 100 or more respondents representing 2% or more of total. Only Ace, Menards, Lowe's and Home Depot qualified).

Market Force also looked at how the top brands fare in operational and product attributes that matter most to consumers. Ace Hardware ranked first in most categories, with particularly strong marks for ease of finding merchandise, staff service and knowledge, and speedy checkouts.

Menards scored highest for merchandise variety and value, while Lowe’s earned the top spot for parking availability. Home Depot ranked last of the brands in all service categories, as well as cleanliness and value.

Market Force’s research revealed that 60% of consumers consider themselves “DIY enthusiasts,” who not only purchase the materials and products themselves, but also complete their own home improvement projects. Another 22% fall in the “do-it-for-me” group that purchases the materials and products, but outsources the labor.

"Home improvement could be a bright light in the retail sector with remodeling projects on the rise and consumers more confident about investing in their homes,” said Ray Walsh, CEO of Market Force Information. “Our research shows that retailers must continue to focus on the customer experience to differentiate their offer and capture a greater share of this growing market, excelling in areas such as value, store cleanliness, and merchandise variety and availability.”

In other findings:

• Home Depot’s app is most popular, with 45% using it, followed by Lowe’s, Walmart, Ikea and Menards. Of the 18% of consumers who indicated they have used an app, 93% of them said the app was helpful.

• One-fifth reported that they participate in the loyalty program offered by the retailer they most recently visited. Ace Hardware’s program is overwhelmingly the most popular with 67% participation, Lowe’s ranked a distant second with 21%, Menards was third with 11% and Home Depot trailed with 8%.

• Nineteen percent indicated they have a home improvement store-branded credit card, with most choosing Lowe’s (25%) and Home Depot (21%). Just 7% have a Menards card and 3% have an Ace card.

For the home improvement rankings, Market Force Information (Market Force) polled more than 7,800 consumers. The participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a home improvement or furnishings store and their likelihood to recommend it to others. That data was averaged to rate each brand on an aggregation of the two measures – a composite loyalty Index.

Market Force also looked at the attributes that drive these preferences, analyzing factors such as merchandise and brand selection, cleanliness and value.

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