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The Case For Contactless Continues To Evolve

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For almost two years, too many discussions about the state of the retail industry have been musings about how “strange” our world has been since the COVID-19 pandemic burst onto the global scene in March 2020. We felt it was time to move in another direction – into the future.

Our aim for our most recent research project (What Contactless Shopping Means For The Store) was simple: to acknowledge that the retail world has irrevocably changed (and will continue to) and understand the implications of those changes. We wanted to identify those areas in the shopping experience and fulfillment processes which stand to be altered the most and query retailers about their attitudes and plans to solve for those changes, for both the short and mid-term. [Note: RSR avoids asking questions about long-term planning, or anything beyond 18 months; since in our rapidly changing world, it is often an exercise in futility. As proof, we invite our readers to revisit any 2020 plans from the year 2019, or even the plans they had in June 2021 for July and August].

Our retail respondents are clear: their plans for “alternative” fulfillment options in the spring and summer of 2021 are virtually unrecognizable from those they shared with us when we visited this topic over a year ago. That report, entitled BOPIS & BORIS: Good Or Bad For Retailers? was released in April 2020, built on a survey conducted in January and February of of that year. At that time, our industry (and the world, at large) was unaware of the impending plague that was about to take hold.  The general takeaway from the 2020 report was the following:

Retailers anticipate that Buy Online/Pickup Instore (and any other alternatives to traditional fulfillment) will be nice-to-have features someday, but customers aren’t really demanding them yet. As a result, the required processes to support such functionality – and the investment plans required to bring them about – lag perceived value significantly.

The data in this report will shine light on how much that sentiment has changed in a very short period.

Starting Off With A Bang

As we can see from the data in Figure 1, retailers’ behaviors are immediately reflective of the new reality: More than one in three retailers say that online orders are now being fulfilled outside of the store’s walls between 25 and 50% of the time. For our purposes, we will use the term “BOPAC” (buy online, pick up at curb), as opposed to “BOPIS” (buy online, pickup instore). This was almost unheard of just a short time ago.

Figure 1: Alternative Fulfillment Finds Value – Quickly

Source: RSR Research, August 2021

With this as a backdrop, we also wanted to know more about retailers’ perception of these customers. As we can see from Figure 2, retailers recognize how much more valuable customers that cross back and forth between the physical and digital worlds already are.

Figure 2: That… Didn’t Take Long

Source: RSR Research, August 2021

The full report is 24 pages long, and has 16 more charts full of data like these. We hope you get a chance to read it – we think it’s pretty interesting!

Newsletter Articles September 14, 2021
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