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The Last Ten Feet: Buy Online Pick Up In-Store

The battle for the mobile consumer’s heart and wallet is being fought on many fronts, and one of these is the humble store parking lot. Mobile commerce has become the focal point for retailers seeking to stay connected to an increasingly time-starved customer base, and much attention has been given to sophisticated approaches to scalable clienteling and delivery. But, it is also worthy to note that brick-and-mortar stores are developing their own distinct take on mobile commerce with the roll-out of “Buy Online Pick Up In-Store.”

Some coffee shops already offer this line-busting alternative: place your order from your phone and walk up to the express counter to pick it up. The same now applies to retail stores, through curbside pickup programs. This is an interesting take on the “last mile” concept, that crucial distance that completes the transaction between vendor and customer.

Now, we move the focus to the last ten feet or so, where customers come up to the store’s front door and have their purchases loaded into their car. 

This new twist on relationship retailing is one of the messages embedded in a recent Insight Report by L2, entitled Retail Innovations: Omnichannel. The report, published in February 2016, lists the benefits associated with curbside customer pickup. It provides a tangible touch point with customers, while reducing delivery time and eliminating shipping costs. The report shows that this touch point can register a seven percent gain in net sales due to additional opportunities for the store to interact with the customer.

All is not as smooth as silk at the moment, however. The report points out that in the past year, “50 percent of shoppers who opted to buy online and pick up in-store experienced problems with their orders,” with issues ranging from long waits, store staff unable to find the shopper’s order, and a minimal time saving as compared to shopping in person. 

These challenges can be seen as teething pains, rectified through a combination of technology, policy, and practice. 

More fascinating is watching innovation in action. Shoppers can use their app to notify store attendants of their arrival, which places greater focus on native mobile apps. Secondly, customers have the option to pick up the item at any location that has it and which suits their itinerary. Most interesting is the case of Sears and Kmart, that the L2 article describes as having “integrated their inventories” so that customers have the option of picking up their purchases at either Sears or Kmart “regardless of which store was originally used for purchase.” This opens up a new frontier of collaboration between retailers. 

Imagine how well this mobile-enabled curbside pickup technique would work in partnership with a car-sharing service. Car sharing exists to serve a growing population of mostly urban, mobile-savvy consumers who see no need to own a car in the traditional sense, but use one by the hour when needed. An alliance between a retailer and a car sharing service becomes a multi-sided business model opportunity, another key factor in a successful omnichannel strategy. 

Think also about the rebirth of the shopping center complex. Customers might easily be swayed to stop in for lunch or dinner on the shopping mall grounds, while their retail purchases are being picked and prepared.

A valet service for purchased items could not happen efficiently if it were not for the native mobile app, which serves as the shopping list, transaction platform, map, communications device between store and customer, and even a calculator of arrival times.

This is the axis of mobile commerce.

This article is the third of a multi-part series focusing on retail innovations and omnichannel commerce solutions. To read the L2 Report, click here>>

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

Editor-in-Chief of The Mobile Retail Blog with NewStore.

Topics: buy online pick up in-store