NEW YORK — According to a new report from Incisiv — “The New Store Shopper in High-Touch Retail” — commissioned by Manhattan Associates, digital is now the front door to the store.
COVID-19, the report concludes, has brought radical change to the retail industry, not least a reprioritization of the store experience for pandemic-era shoppers.
With 80% of shoppers expecting to increase BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and curbside pickup over the next six months and 90% of shoppers preferring home delivery over a store visit in the next six months, retailers must position themselves to flexibly serve these needs, especially when it comes to e-commerce fulfillment.
Key findings of the report include that stores are becoming hubs of online order fulfillment — and safety is the price of entry for the foreseeable future, as 85% of shoppers have significantly increased curbside pickup orders compared to pre-COVID-19 rates, and 79% say a contactless store pickup is very important to them.
While 91% of shoppers miss shopping in stores, only 5% plan to try a product in-store in the next six months, and only 28% plan to increase in-store shopping. Safety of store experience — be it for in-store purchase or order pickup — is of utmost importance, according to respondents.
At the same time, shoppers find current pickup experiences lacking, rating their recent checkout and pickup experiences poorly across a variety of parameters, from availability of pickup slots to wait times for pickup once at the store; 85% of shoppers rate the ease of completing an order four stars or higher, but they encounter significant friction getting there, both online and in-store; and 81% of shoppers rated three stars or lower when asked about stores’ availability for preferred pickup date and time.
Retailers should expect a flood of in-store returns once stores reopen, the report finds. Following months of e-commerce shopping, shoppers are planning to increase in-store visits to return an order or item. In fact, returning an item to the store is the second-biggest motivator for future store visits, behind same-day need. Retailers need to be prepared to handle this surge of inventory in-store.
“Shoppers view and value stores very differently today than they did pre-COVID-19. More than ever before, it is all about safety, speed and convenience,” said Gaurav Pant, chief insights officer at Incisiv. “And this change in behavior will impact high-touch retail categories such as apparel, luxury and specialty in unique ways. We recommend retailers make it easier to find store inventory online, simplify the in-store pickup experience, and help their store associates build stronger relationships with customers digitally. As importantly, retailers must arm their store teams with tools to fulfill online orders more efficiently — and ultimately — profitably.”
The study also indicates that store associates will continue to be seen as an important source of knowledge and insight, but the relationship between the shopper and employee will need to be digitized. For 80% of shoppers, digital communications with store associates over the next six months are “likely” or “very likely.” As well, store inventory visibility will become the centerpiece of all associate and customer experiences. This includes showing accurate, real-time store inventory online, filtering stores by product availability and showing accurate inventory location within the store to associates and customers.