Not every retailer is sold on curbside pickup

Photo: RetailWire
Jan 29, 2021

Maisie Woolverton

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Aptos.

At RetailROI SuperFriday just before the NRF Big Show, a retailer roundtable hosted by Aptos discussed some of the trends that emerged in retail in 2020 and which ones appear to have staying power.

Topics discussed included:

Curbside pickup: Retailers had mixed opinions on curbside beyond the pandemic. For some, curbside and BOPIS helped increase average order value and prevent issues with delivery. For others, it was not a huge draw for customers or was too complicated to coordinate with closed stores.

Buy now, pay later: With a low cost to implement and a younger target audience, one retailer mentioned that they believed “buy now, pay later” to be a strong trend moving forward. Several retailers, however, felt payment plan solutions were not currently relevant for their market or region. One preferred the “buy now, pay now” model.

Delivery alternatives: At least a couple of the participating retailers have expanded their delivery network in order to combat delays, often finding more reliable service with smaller carriers or alternative options like Instacart. With fewer products moving between stores, one retailer has even repurposed their own delivery trucks to bring shipments directly to the carrier’s hubs in order to reduce time and costs.

Livestreaming: Roundtable retailers were not sold on livestreaming. While one mentioned getting good results from previous livestreaming efforts with their collection designers, the main purpose of the technology was to drive traffic into stores. The conversation turned instead to other sales channels and marketing efforts, including more emotion-focused messaging that has been fruitful for these retailers over the past several months.

Health and wellness: One health and wellness retailer had a positive outlook for their industry, despite ongoing supply chain challenges. “There was already a trend toward [the category], and COVID accelerated it,” the retailer said. “We think it will keep growing and it’s here to stay.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which trends that emerged during the pandemic are more likely to continue after the pandemic? Which trends getting attention for accelerated traction do you predict may be abandoned?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"BOPAC and BOPIS are two trends that will stay. I also believe MFCs or micro-fulfillment centers and dark stores are a trends that will accelerate."
"BOPIS will likely remain more popular and depending on the retailer, some may eliminate curbside if usage wanes or adds limited value to the consumer."
"The best retailers will monitor how these trends evolve and leverage the right analytics to stay on trend..."

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22 Comments on "Not every retailer is sold on curbside pickup"

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Neil Saunders

All of the trends have become more prominent during the pandemic and all of them are likely to remain more significant as we emerge from it. Indeed, some of them like health and wellness were in play well before coronavirus hit.

All that said, we must avoid the temptation to say that every trend is applicable to every retailer. This is often done in discussions about digital with views such as “every retailer needs to be online.” The great thing about retail is that it’s a very varied industry where there are always exceptions to rules and trends.

My headline advice is to not chase trends, but to understand the customer and build out solutions that are appropriate for them.

Mark Ryski

Curbside and other delivery options are here to stay. Many consumers discovered the convenience of these new services and demand will continue past this pandemic. As noted, not all retailers were able to execute these services efficiently or effectively, but those who did/do will continue to have an edge.

One of the biggest impacts from the pandemic that I don’t believe will be permanent are the myriad cleaning and hygiene protocols that store staff are subjected to. As the pandemic is brought under control, I’m hopeful store staff and can get back to serving customers.

Ken Morris

BOPAC and BOPIS are two trends that will stay. I also believe MFCs or micro-fulfillment centers and dark stores are a trends that will accelerate given the bump online food sales received in the pandemic. Aptos clients are for the most part soft goods retailers and not grocery, so I’m assuming attendees to their roundtable reflected their customer base.

Suresh Chaganti

Retailers have to balance 3 things: what customers prefers now, what keeps them profitable and what will keep them ahead of the competition. These 3 goals are inherently conflicting, and all need the finite resources. Retailers (or any business) that successfully balances these 3 will be a winner.

Having said the above, I do think the current spate of new capabilities (BOPIS, BORIS, curbside, etc, etc) are not cheap, and every new capability rolled out will be at an expense of something else. So I fully expect retailers to pursue some and discard more.

Di Di Chan

Trends with the strongest staying power are easy to implement, simple to maintain, and generate enough ROI to keep. For example, outsourced delivery alternatives, health and wellness trends, touch-free scan and go mobile checkouts, and mobile payments are the most viable solutions to keep operating long past the pandemic. In contrast, solutions that take a lot of ongoing effort to keep up will have a higher churn rate once it is not necessary.

Bob Amster

Different strokes for different folks, Curbside pick-up for groceries and consumer electronics, small furniture; BOPIS for apparel and small home home goods; home delivery for any and all and BORIS for anything that is not a large or heavy product.

Ben Ball

All of these initiatives will stick in certain circumstances. Curbside pickup driven by pandemic fear of going into the store will disappear quickly for drug and other convenience retailers. But nothing beats having your order at the home center loaded directly into your pickup by those burly young guys! And since when has “buy now — pay later” not been popular? Other motivations will drive the other trends as well. But I had to chuckle at retailers saying that livestreaming is “mainly to drive store traffic”. Remember when they said that about catalogs and the internet?

Gene Detroyer

In the end, it is all about what the customer wants, not the retailer.

As difficult as the pandemic has been for both, one thing the customer has experienced is the convenience for BOPIS and delivery. After the pandemic, they are not going to revert to a behavior that is less convenient for them.

Any retailer that wants to turn back the clock will lose. The winners will be those who take advantage of the customers new desires for convenience.

Matthew Pavich

As others have stated, these trends are all likely to continue and were growing trends that COVID simply accelerated. The devil will be in the details of how they will grow, as “Health & Wellness” in 2020 meant hand sanitizer and home gym equipment, but could have a different flavor moving forward. BNPL also has different flavors as does Livestreaming. The best retailers will monitor how these trends evolve and leverage the right analytics to stay on trend and evolve as their consumers do to ensure they are always offering the right products, experiences and prices.

David Mascitto

It is likely that all of these trends will continue, but with varying degrees depending on the type of retailer, location, customer profile etc. What’s important for retailers is to understand which (if any) of these trends will build their customer base and instill customer loyalty, and then weave them into the brand experience.

Harley Feldman

Curbside pickup and BOPIS will continue with some retailers long after the pandemic. Those retailers that are doing both well, like Target, have set an expectation that customers want to continue with. Also, buy now, pay later will be used by more consumers as a way to buy things they cannot afford to or choose not to pay for at time of purchase.

On the other hand, not every retailer will have success with the technologies developed during the pandemic. Over time, as always, each retailer will take advantage of the tools and technology that helps them the best.

Lee Peterson

2020 threw us into the “all delivery” economy and after getting so used to that for a year plus, consumers aren’t going back. Retailers and everyone else have just made it too easy and usually cost effective. I ordered something from Target the other day and with one click, what I ordered was at my house in 20 minutes. Think I’m going to Target again any time soon? As Jack Ma said, “today’s innovation is tomorrow’s expectation.”

Brian Cluster
2020 was the accelerator of trends and if you remove the health concerns out of the equations some will surely diminish in popularity. Some services are duplicative and don’t add value for some retailers. For example, curbside seems to only make sense if the purchase is cumbersome or there are multiple bags. I’m still not sure of the value of curbside for a drug store that also has a drive-through. BOPIS will likely remain more popular and depending on the retailer, some may eliminate curbside if usage wanes or adds limited value to the consumer. McKinsey completed a study last year that indicated that 75% of Americans have tried a new shopping behavior in the crisis. If they weren’t already there in 2020, many consumers adopted a new digital shopping behavior and have become more digitally focused across their entire hopping journey. Increased digital-first shopping is a trend much bigger than some mentioned above. Digital product discovery, research, price comparison is happening at home, in the store, and on the go and this is a… Read more »
Ananda Chakravarty

Curbside will continue to evolve and in certain cases become super efficient. Customers have all been trying curbside to see how it works. There will be a convergence on how it’s executed and this will become a staple in the retail space, akin to personalization. Live-streaming will not take off anytime soon, as it really is a marketing play, not a shopping or fulfillment method. What’s missing on the list is back office supply chain solutions, e.g. dark stores, micro fulfillment, and similar technologies. Also a trend in self service and contactless service has hit the market — these will stay for some time going forward.

David Adelman

It’s all about agility moving forward, providing the consumer with speedy options to free up more time for them to enjoy life. This will be particularly relevant for younger consumers like millennials who crave more time with family and experiences.

What consumer habits will stick after the pandemic? About twenty percent of all new adoptions is my guess, but this will vary greatly depending on the demographic.

Regardless, efficiency, communication, speed, and transparency must be built into any new retail platform moving forward, both in-store and online.

Nobody really knows what next year will bring, but we all definitely learned that time with friends and family is precious. We are all social beings, and that will never change.

Once it’s safe to mingle again, we will all be attracted to each other like magnets, and brick & mortar retail will thrive once again, albeit with a transformed experience.

Steve Montgomery

Expect all of them to continue post pandemic to different extents for different retailers. Population density will also have a definite impact. My bet for the trend with the least impact will be live streaming. I expect customers will want to get back into the store to see and touch what they are buying.

Andrew Blatherwick
Not all retail strategies will be appropriate to all retailers and buy now pay later for food may not be one that catches on! Curbside pick-up and BOPIS headlining the article may not work for everyone, but for most retailers one or both of these will be an important part of their channel mix if they are going to compete successfully. As people feel more secure about going out but still not wanting to go into stores these options could increase in importance and as people get used to them they will be here for the long haul. Buy now pay later is significantly more limited in the retail verticals it is appropriate for and as concerns grow about the economy may be a draw but may also attract the wrong publicity. However, the real learning from the past year is that retailers have to think about their customers, what they want, expect and really enjoy. Running retail with non-connected channels will not wash anymore. Customers are past accepting that. Poor availability and poor and… Read more »
Although consumer expectations evolve as a common denominator across all of retail, not all retailers or verticals are created equal. Merchants still need to do their own math (ideally primary consumer research) before betting on a trend. Example: If you are a high-end luxury brand, BNPL might spur a negative connotation among your affluent primary target audience; you may sink your brand image and lose more patrons than it’s worth to attract a younger, less well-off consumer with deferred payments. Know your consumer within the context of trends. On curbside… Curbside will only have sticking power with retailers willing to invest in optimizing the experience. Merchants that have stuffed in a scrappy, makeshift BOPIS/curbside solutions to “survive” the pandemic will likely opt to drop the offering. They treat omnichannel as an obligation, not an opportunity. Post-pandemic curbside will continue to be a huge pull for capturing convenience-seeking consumers across all verticals… but it will only prove profitable for mature retailers who are in 2021 investing in scalable omnichannel backend technology, automated consumer communication, and optimized… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

“Buy now pay later” … what is this, 1952? We have that already — it’ s called a credit card. Anyway, most of the interest seems to be in the delivery methods: curbside (and BOPIS, which was curiously omitted here) vs. full-delivery; there are benefits and drawbacks to each, but the real issue is — or should be — the cost recovery element. As long as “free” remains the mantra, retail will be struggling with sub-optimal choices.

Shep Hyken

The trends are no longer trends. They are happening now and here to stay. More curbside, delivery, online, etc. It was going to be this way regardless of the pandemic. As for the livestreaming, if you create good content and market it the right way, you will get the audience.

Karen Wong

I wouldn’t want to bet the house at this point as much of the implementation in 2020 was done to stop the bleeding. But as new consumer habits, best practices and technologies mature, it will be clear which sectors are best suited for each of the trends above.

Casey Craig

Delivery and BOPIS are two trends that were gaining traction before the pandemic and have only accelerated since. As the article mentions, health and wellness-focused products have become more and more valuable to consumers throughout the pandemic, and we will continue to see that ramped up as we watch pharmacies become a one-stop-shop for more health and wellness needs. Future digital products will allow customers to fill their prescriptions, schedule their flu-shot, and even get lab results all with a few clicks on their phone or online portal.

A lot of the digital trends we have seen emerge during the pandemic may not disappear but instead merge with traditional brick-and-mortar stores and practices, creating a hybrid between digital products and traditional in-person retail.

"BOPAC and BOPIS are two trends that will stay. I also believe MFCs or micro-fulfillment centers and dark stores are a trends that will accelerate."
"BOPIS will likely remain more popular and depending on the retailer, some may eliminate curbside if usage wanes or adds limited value to the consumer."
"The best retailers will monitor how these trends evolve and leverage the right analytics to stay on trend..."

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