Why curbside pickup is here to stay for some retailers

·3 min read

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter the way Canadians shop for everything from groceries to holiday gifts, many retailers are looking at curbside pickup as a permanent part of their service offering.

Shopify’s recently released Future of Commerce report found that consumers’ hesitation about in-store shopping is driving retailers to adopt new methods such as curbside pickup. Satish Kanwar, Shopify’s vice president of product, said the shift has led to businesses rethinking their offerings and how they interact with consumers.

“These physical spaces are going to continue to play an important role in commerce. It’s just they’re no longer the centre of gravity,” Kanwar said in an interview. “The e-commerce experience is the centre, and those physical locations are a feed in and out of the digital experience.”

According to Shopify’s report, consumers are still hesitant to return to in-store shopping in the same ways that they did before. Most consumers – 79 per cent – said they will shop online regularly over the next six months, while 57 per cent will shop in-store regularly. Shopify’s survey found that 45 per cent of Canadians are uncomfortable with the in-store shopping experience.

Diane Brisebois, the chief executive of the Retail Council of Canada, said that curbside pickup has worked out particularly well for retailers in big box store plazas and smaller commercial malls, where there is ample room for parking and space to fulfil orders.

“Those who have the space have become quite sophisticated at managing curbside pickup and have been training associates to deliver customers service that shoppers would expect in-store,” she said.

“They are doing it very well but there are other, because of where they’re located and the space around their stores, it’s a bit more challenging.”

Still, Brisebois says that she expects that curbside pickup will continue to grow as retailers improve the experience for customers through the pandemic.

“People have busy lives and for them, especially for those who prefer pickup instead of shopping online and waiting for delivery, it will continue to be popular, especially because retailers are getting better and better at it,” she said.

But retailers have a long way to go when it comes to improving the curbside pickup experience for shoppers. According to a recent survey from U.S.-based consumer insight firm Incisiv, shoppers have rated recent checkout and pickup experience poorly across a range of parameters, including wait times and pickup. The survey found that 81 per cent of shoppers rated the experience three stars out of five or less.

“Shoppers are demanding more from retailers across their ordering and pickup experience,” the survey said.

“With continued growth in adoption expected over the next six months, shoppers will switch loyalties to retailers who offer a more seamless experience.”

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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