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With the growth in online shopping triggered by the pandemic, there has been a huge surge in customers leveraging buy online, pickup in store, or BOPIS, and curbside pickup options. This surge is unlikely to go away, making it critical for merchants to offer unique omnichannel shopping experiences to stay competitive.
To learn more about the massive growth of curbside pickup and BOPIS in 2020 and how they will be areas of continued innovation in the new world, PaymentsJournal sat down with Jennifer Philo, GVP of US Digital Commerce and Loyalty at Blackhawk Network, and Raymond Pucci, Director of Merchant Services at Mercator Advisory Group.
The pandemic accelerated BOPIS retail and curbside pickup… permanently.
By now, it’s been well-established that COVID-19 accelerated changes in the ways U.S. consumers shop and pay. “It’s been such an interesting time for us to see the changing dynamics with the consumer and how quickly they’ve adapted to changing shopping behaviors as a result of COVID in 2020,” said Philo.
Pucci agreed, adding that in the past year, “[Mercator Advisory Group] has really seen a tremendous acceleration of, whether you want to call it buy online, pick up in store [BOPIS], or click and collect. That was a trend that we were seeing pre-COVID, but I think that what would have been a two, three, or four year trend has been compressed into the past year, and we’re really seeing consumers adopting this so much.”
Blackhawk Network saw similar trends emerge. “We saw 85% of our customer base select digital over plastic, which was pretty staggering for us here at Blackhawk, to see that shift so quickly,” said Philo. “And as the consumer is spoken to and asked, most of them tell us that those shopping behavior changes and preferences will be permanent after the pandemic.”
More specifically, 78% of surveyed U.S. consumers expect permanent changes in the shopping experience, with 44% saying they’re unlikely to shift back to their former shopping behavior once the country reopens. The lasting nature of changes caused by COVID-19 is what makes it so important for merchants to meet consumers where they are to provide the best possible shopping experience.
Convenience and speed matter more than ever.
In 2021, two specific aspects of the customer experience—convenience and speed—will matter more than ever before. “We know through our research that convenience and speed are the two motivators for shoppers. Seventy-six percent of consumers that we surveyed reported convenience as their top motivation for shopping in-store, and 56% cited speed of purchase as a top motivator,” explained Philo. “[Retailers] need to take those convenience and speed factors and now incorporate them into new shopping behaviors like buying online and picking up in store.”
In other words, retailers need to implement quick and convenient features like BOPIS and curbside pickup. “And in many ways, consumer comfort is built along streamlined payments and gifting technologies that can integrate into the fast paced nature of today’s consumer,” she added.
As a result, retailers need to engage with customers in new ways.
With what are now established customer shopping behaviors, retailers must be proactive in adding and optimizing omnichannel capabilities and experiences like BOPIS and curbside pickup. Luckily, there are some easy ways that retailers can do this.
For example, something as simple as signage or other awareness pieces can go a long way in letting consumers know that new ways to buy and pay are available. Even consumers who are proactively looking for new shopping experiences benefit from these reminders.
It’s also important to make sure that the retail experience is as frictionless as possible, which ties into the customer demand for convenience. Beyond making BOPIS and curbside pickup available, updates to internal systems and POS, employee training, and transaction protection efforts can set retailers apart in the market.
“We’re just seeing all these systems converge [and] they have to work,” said Philo. “We are very focused on that seamless interaction for touchless, contactless, fast payments, leveraging gift card rails, to make sure that this is seamless for the customer so they trust it and adopt it and it becomes a part of how they interact with retailers moving forward.”
Gift card offerings are a unique way to enhance curbside pickup.
Part of creating an omnichannel customer experience for customers is being able to provide the same services online that are available in-store. This includes gift cards, a staple offering for grocery retailers. But historically, there wasn’t a way to include gift cards in a BOPIS or curbside pickup shopping experience. Rather, customers had to leave their car to go in-store, pick up a card, and load it at the cash register.
Recognizing the need for a better process, Blackhawk quickly adapted to offer a quick and seamless curbside pickup, at-home activation solution to allow shoppers to continue buying gift cards at grocery stores without having to leave their cars.
“We’ve been working really hard with our retail partners to train and make sure they deliver this in a really safe, secure manner for the customer that feels similar to the original shopping experience. But it’s fast. It works. It’s safe,” explained Philo.
Although there are a few upfront considerations for merchants to offer such a solution, such as inventory management, fulfillment, and customer service, the end result is a win-win for retailers and their customers. “Merchants have to be able to respond to [the rise in mobile purchases] and have the technology where consumers are used to shopping,” said Pucci.
Curbside pickup and BOPIS are two contactless shopping experiences that grew rapidly in 2020. While retailers did a great job pivoting to support this, investing in solutions like Blackhawk’s can enhance the omnichannel shopping experience even more.
“Those are the retailers that are going to win—the ones that are looking at consumer behavior and driving innovation to keep that consumer moving,” concluded Philo.