Can Busy Consumers Cut Wait Times With Click And Pickup Shopping?

If you would rather skip long store lines and delivery times, grab your smartphone or computer for what retailers are calling a speedier way to shop online.

A growing number of retailers now offer “buy online, pickup in store” shopping experiences for their customers, in which everything you order is ready for same-day collection. That means no more browsing store aisles, searching for sizes, or waiting several days for an online purchase to be delivered.

Retailers say they’ll have orders complete within a few hours. But is the process as easy as they make it out to be?

NBC 5 Investigates, along with CNBC and our NBC sister stations in San Diego and Dallas, ordered dozens of items for same-day pickup. We purchased merchandise from six retailers and waited for alerts to say the items were ready.

The idea was to see how easy the process is overall for consumers and how much time it took from online check-out to when the order was ready for pickup.

Thirty-seven minutes after NBC 5 Investigates ordered two sweaters, a glass candle holder, a card game and lotion from Target’s website, we received a pickup alert from the store in suburban Hodgkins. Once inside the store, we were asked to show identification at the customer service counter. All of our items were included in the bag.

“We’re proud that Order Pickup consistently receives high satisfaction marks from guests, and that more than 95 percent of Order Pickup orders are ready in less than an hour for guests at their local Target store,” said a Target spokesperson.

We received a notification from Kohl’s in Hodgkins less than one hour after confirming a purchase for bedding and baby items. Our identification and a barcode from a confirmation email were required for the pickup.

Pick-up alerts from Home Depot in Broadview and Macy’s in Oak Brook came within two hours. Both stores required order confirmations and everything we ordered was at the stores’ customer service desks.

It took nearly three hours for us to hear that our order was ready at Wal-Mart in Hodgkins. We walked to the back of the store to the online pickup counter and entered our email address in a computer kiosk. All of our items were handed-over to us within a few minutes.

Still, consumers should be prepared to adjust their orders when shopping online for same-day pickup because some items may not be available at your store of choice.

A spokesperson for Home Depot said the retailer has approximately 35,000 SKUs in the store but more than one million online.

NBC 5 Investigates ordered a shower caddy, Christmas tree stand, tree skirt, and surge protector for same-day pickup at the Lowe’s location on North Narragansett Avenue in Chicago. About two hours and fifty minutes after clicking the online purchase button, we received a call from a store employee telling us that the tree stand and skirt would not be available.

“We’re always working to improve the customer experience,” said a Lowe’s spokesperson. “In 2018, we will introduce new capabilities to our buy online pick up in store program, including dedicated parking spots, specific pick-up desks and at high volume stores, employees dedicated to filling orders.”

Overall, our combined shopping experiences from across the country resulted in the following “ready for pick-up” rankings for the six retailers:

1. Target-order ready averaged 33 minutes

2. Kohl’s-order ready averaged 46 minutes

3. Home Depot-order ready averaged 1 hour 15 minutes

4. Macy’s-order ready averaged 2 hours 11 minutes

5. Lowe’s-order ready averaged 2 hours 45 minutes

6. Wal-Mart-order ready averaged 6 hours 32 minutes

Our Dallas affiliate placed its order with Wal-Mart just before 5 p.m with same-day pickup as a stated option, but the email and text notifying the team it was ready for pickup didn’t come until after 9 a.m. the next day.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said “while we don’t share our average order time externally, we can say it’s quite a bit less than what the CNBC/NBC affiliates experienced.”

A recent study by JDA Consumer Survey found a 44% increase in “buy online, pick-up in store” shopping since 2015.

“I can go out and pick it up after I get off work, before I pick up the kids from school,” said Dr. Jim Mourey of DePaul University. “That’s the sort of convenience that they’re reaching out to. Just sort of steal those customers back from companies like Amazon.”

Mourey, who studies consumer psychology, said this marketing method is not entirely new. However, he said retailers are giving more options to customers who prefer convenience and those who enjoy browsing.

“If companies like Target continue to change in this very innovative way, I think everyone can benefit,” Mourey said. “My guess is for retail stores that are going to be around the next five or ten years, they’re gonna have to do the same thing.”

While a 2015 survey showed 40% of consumers who picked up online orders say they experienced some sort of service issue, such as a long wait, the retailers we recently visited said they are working hard to provide a fast and easy experience for shoppers and they are making more items available for same-day pickup.

“It’s so popular that we’ve tripled the number of items available,” said a Wal-Mart spokesperson.

The Target spokesperson said about one-third of the shoppers who come in for Order Pickup orders also make additional purchases.

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