Holiday Trend 2: Omnichannel is Here to Stay
In our first Holiday Trend article, we covered the factors that are driving global consumers back to in-store shopping. As we’ve all witnessed, the functions physical stores serve has changed dramatically, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers were forced to shop online during the early days of the pandemic, many chose to leverage buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) or buy online, pick-up at curbside (BOPAC) options. Of course, these services were there years ago, but the pandemic accelerated shopper adoption.
How will omnichannel solutions like BOPIS and BOPAC impact holiday shopping? Did concerns over health and safety spur the growing popularity of these services, and what is the outlook for continued use, particularly during the upcoming holiday season?
Omnichannel makes moderate gains in some regions, but not all
During the pandemic, omnichannel retail, which encompasses e-commerce, BOPIS, BOPAC, and more has enjoyed significant success in many parts of the world;. but its gains weren’t spread equally from region to region, or even from one country to its nearest neighbors.
Our study found that 35% of North American shoppers will use BOPIS solutions this holiday season, while 36% will use BOPAC. These are moderate gains over holiday 2020 — an increase of 2% and 4% respectively — which likely means most shoppers who would consider using these solutions may already be doing so.
Those numbers are also far higher than shoppers in Europe and Latin America reported. Twenty-one percent of European consumers said they plan to use BOPIS this holiday season, while 19% said the same for BOPAC. In Latin America, those numbers were 30% and 8% respectively.
This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that Latin American and European “high streets,” where most chain retailers are located on the continent, don’t have the same sprawling parking lots as big-box North American outlets, presenting challenges for curbside pickup. Likewise, though e-commerce has surged in Latin America because of the pandemic, many shoppers in the region still don’t have access to credit cards and do their shopping with cash, putting yet another dent in the potential for BOPIS/BOPAC growth in Latin America.
However, both services remain less popular than buy online, ship to home solutions. More than half of North American consumers (52%) say they plan on having online purchases shipped to their residences this year. Sixty-three percent of European shoppers said the same, as did 67% of LATAM consumers.
Meanwhile, in APAC, retailers report being optimistic about the future of brick-and-mortar stores, largely as a result of the growth of e-commerce and their growing role in last-mile delivery networks. According to Inside Retail, about 70% expect omnichannel services to become regular offerings, with more online orders being fulfilled and delivered from physical stores.
Even though omnichannel adoption may not be equal across the world, the takeaway for retailers is. This holiday season, your shoppers will want to buy from a variety of channels, and you’ll need to carefully consider optimizing your stores, supply chains, and inventories accordingly.
Convenience and concern: twin drivers of BOPIS/BOPAC adoption
In our first installment to this blog series, we discussed that as vaccination rates rise in many countries, newly emboldened shoppers are eager to return to stores — but, this doesn’t mean concerns over in-store safety have evaporated. Far from it, as our survey found. Nor has the desire for positive in-store experiences tamped down desires for speed and convenience.
For North American consumers, our survey found that convenience and health and safety were almost equally important when it comes to using BOPIS/BOPAC:
However, as our previous installment uncovered, European shoppers are much less concerned when it comes to health and safety, potentially because many retail locations in Europe currently require masks and proof of vaccination and still enforce occupancy limits. Instead, consumers in Europe are much more interested in speed and convenience:
For North American retailers, it’s clear that providing a convenient pick-up experience with minimal contact and transmission risk will be a must this holiday season. For those in Europe, speed and convenience will win the day. Optimize accordingly.
Retailers have multiple opportunities to improve
BOPIS/BOPAC adoption seems to have plateaued in many regions, but retailers should still consider refining their omnichannel fulfillment operations further. Just a third (33%) of shoppers in North America said they routinely received the correct merchandise in a timely manner via BOPIS/BOPAC, and 56% reported out of stocks, long waits, and substitutions — meaning retailers have significant opportunities to improve.
Consider that almost a quarter (24%) of North American consumers who used BOPIS/BOPAC in the past said they’d arrived at a store to pick up their purchases, only to find out it was out of stock and replaced by a substitute item. Nearly a fifth (18%) found that their purchase was unavailable and was not able to be substituted for a similar item.
Yet, despite these findings, 83% of North American shoppers said they would use BOPIS/BOPAC again — although 31% said they would try their luck at a different store.
In other words, today’s BOPIS/BOPAC shoppers will continue to be BOPIS/BOPAC shoppers for the upcoming holiday season — and for the foreseeable future. They’re willing to continue using the services for the sake of safety and convenience. With these omnichannel shoppers here to stay, retailers should consider investing in not only sophisticated inventory management and intelligence solutions that deliver item-level tracking from supply chain to storefront, but also advanced loss prevention systems that prevent shrink events from causing stockouts and creating poor customer experiences.
There may not be any seismic changes when it comes to omnichannel this season, but our survey revealed that BOPIS/BOPAC and other omnichannel options are very much here to stay. Their adoption may have been accelerated by the pandemic, but the consumers who prefer them aren’t going to stop if or when COVID-19 abates.
They’re simply part of the new reality for retailers, and those that optimize their stores and processes, train their associates, and invest in innovative inventory and loss prevention solutions in the name of better omnichannel experiences will prosper this holiday season and beyond.
To help you make the most of the 2021 holiday season, we’ve crafted a wealth of resources to:
- Schedule smartly: download our global guide to the 2021 holiday season's busiest shopping days.
- Understand your store traffic and how to optimize your locations for in-store shopping and omnichannel: get your copy of our 2021 Holiday Guide to In-Store Success.
- Protect your merchandise and your bottom line: review our 2021 Loss Prevention Checklist.
Be sure to read the rest of our 2021 Global Holiday Retail series. If you missed the first installment on the new realities of in-store shopping, you can view it here, and be sure to check out the third and final installment that covers when today’s consumers plan to start their holiday shopping— and why that matters for retailers.
Also, please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, using #SensormaticHolidays2021 for the latest updates and information on the season.