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TECHNOLOGY

Minutes Matter: Four Ways Brands Can Improve In-Store Pick Up

BY Jaron Waldman

After years of building momentum, connected-store programs that enable customers to “click-and-collect” are becoming mainstream across every corner of retail and food service.

Supermarket chains such as H-E-B, leading retailers in every sector — including beauty (Sephora), fashion (Nordstrom) and home improvement (Home Depot) — as well as top quick-serve restaurant operators have expanded buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) programs to serve a core shopping group that values convenience and saving time. Brands are not just recognizing that digital experiences have re-shaped consumer expectations — they are starting to deliver digital-to-physical programs that meet customer needs.

Simply put, we are at an inflection point for a huge shift in consumer behavior. Minutes matter. And the hybrid experience of starting digitally and finishing physically is emerging as the winning strategy for any brand that wants to create an emotional connection to shoppers that speaks to their busy lives.

Consider that 75% of consumers in a recent survey by JDA Software valued “quick and easy” over a personalized experience.

And according to Forrester’s 2018 trends forecast, 41% of American adults have used variations of BOPIS, whether it’s buy online for in-store pickup, ship to store, or reserve online and pick up in-store, when it has been available. BOPIS orders soon will overtake orders that ship to the customer, Forrester projects, as mega retailers like Walmart heavily promote their programs.

The pace at which the BOPIS experience has quietly gained steam has big implications for brands catering to every demographic. Seventy-one percent of Baby Boomers and 61% of Gen Xers have used BOPIS. Getting it right has never been more urgent.

As volumes climb, four areas of focus emerge that can take programs to the next level:

Make ordering and re-ordering easy. Optimize the digital ordering process by refining each step that leads to an order. Include rewards and associated discounts in the digital channel, and provide a variety of payment options.

Easy reorder and reminder functions can grow basket sizes, and new tools are popping up. For example, in its new Shopping Actions offering, Google has included a 1-click reorder option. The efforts playing out at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks to heighten the mobile ordering experience are good examples of the need to continually hone in-app ordering and customer loyalty programs.

Focus relentlessly on capacity and speed. Retailers sometimes limit the number of pickups when order volumes increase during key periods. Instead, the focus should be on increasing throughput. At Pier 1 Imports, BOPIS accounts for some 25% of sales, with products from the furnishings and décor retailer generally available within an hour.

For many retailers, the ultimate goal is to have orders ready in 30 minutes or even less. Achieving it means focusing on these questions and finding solutions: How can we pick orders quicker? How can we cut customer wait times by half, thereby doubling throughput on and off the lot? How do we gain visibility into when customers are coming late or not at all?

Train the team. Arm associates with the tools and training they need to manage digital orders and thrive in the new world of blended commerce. Curbside technology, for example, provides alerts when pickup customers are approaching – so associates know when orders can be staged – and when customers arrive on the lot – so orders can be walked out. Associates have a work list by actual arrival, not order time or scheduled pickup time.

Additionally, training in new technology should be engrained in your culture. Walmart has started using virtual reality to prepare associates for massive shopping days like Black Friday, customer service, and instructional scenarios such as the best way to stack product.

Elevate the experience. Ask for customer feedback about their experience and how to improve it – whether through an in-app ‘star rating,’ a quick survey or free-form comments.

Capture and measure customer wait time and customer ratings at every store and every shift, so performance is maintained at a high level. Research consistently shows that repeat rates for customers is a direct function of wait time and satisfaction. Successful programs have consistently high scores and consistent repeat customers.

It’s clear that digital commerce is a tidal wave that will only accelerate, and it is primed to continue gaining momentum — especially with the continued adoption of mobile commerce. Research from Sapient shows that 52% of all e-commerce traffic comes from mobile devices globally, and consumers increasingly are using phones across many touchpoints in their journey. High-tech and high-touch blended commerce experiences are no longer a nice to have — they are a consumer expectation.

Jaron Waldman is co-founder and CEO of Curbside.

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TECHNOLOGY

Luxury brands’ digital strategies still need work

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Despite accelerating their digital investments, luxury brands’ overall digital experiences are falling short of their customers’ expectations.

This was according to the “L2 Digital IQ Index: Fashion Global 2018,” a study from Gartner L2. The study, which benchmarks the digital performance of 77 luxury fashion brands operating in the United States and Western Europe, evaluates their digital performance across site and e-commerce, digital marketing, social media, and mobile.

When looking at key digital strategies for fashion brands across key markets, including the U.S., U.K, France, and Germany, those in the U.S. continue to lag behind other retail verticals in omnichannel fulfillment functionality. Only 29% of Index brands have click-and-collect, as opposed to 71% of department stores, offering consumers less incentive buy directly from a brand online.

While U.S.-based brands have upped their game when it comes to customer service offerings, they still fall behind when it comes to translating features to European sites. Less than 50% of brands in Europe list customer service in local time zones, with only 36% doing so in Germany.

One common thread across all brands is their emphasis on social commerce, especially investments in Instagram. Year-over-year adoption of Instagram Shopping has jumped from 12% to 42%. Meanwhile, 24% of brands have integrated a Facebook Shop tab on their pages. However, many still fail to actually add a meaningful number of SKUs, according to the study.

“Fashion brands are accelerating their digital investments to keep up with a globalizing commerce landscape and shifts in consumer expectations,” said Brian Lee, associate director at Gartner L2. “However, this rush to catch up has led to uneven implementation, and some brands fail to thoughtfully consider digital features before integrating them, resulting in a lack of sophisticated nuance, especially as brands expand distribution into new markets in search of consumers.”

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Teen apparel retailer drives personalization

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Rue21 is taking a new step in its customer-centric business strategy.

The teen apparel retailer is using Manthan’s cloud-based solutions to manage its customer-centric marketing and merchandising operations. By delivering more personalized offerings, Rue21 can stay relevant among its customers.

Using advanced analytics will enable the company to more deeply understand customer segments, and personalize marketing communications that drive engagement and loyalty. In addition, the analytics solution will enable the company to make more data-driven decisions across core retail merchandising processes, like assortment, pricing, promotions, allocation, replenishment, ordering, fulfillment and store operations.

“The investment in Manthan’s analytics is another important move towards becoming a high-performance business,” said Dr. Mark Chrystal, chief analytics officer at Rue21. “Manthan’s modern cloud analytics platform, superior solution engineering, and strong experience in the retail and consumer domains played a key role in our decision.”

This is not Rue21’s first investment in advanced data analytics. In May, the company implemented a predictive analytics solution that uses customer sentiment to improve its design and buying decisions across its apparel, footwear and accessories categories. The technology also enables the retailer to better invest in merchandise that will differentiate its assortments.

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