During the pandemic, many retailers struggled with fulfillment from the surge in online orders. What are the big challenges for retailers and how can they overcome them?
The number one thing that really pisses people off is the delivery window. The stuff you ordered from Amazon for delivery in two days wasn’t getting there in two days. It’s like when you make a time window appointment with your cable provider and they miss the window. It’s common for Instacart to say “We’ll be there between four and six,” and then you get a call at nine. Another thing is when they make crazy substitutions. That certainly causes people discontent. We have high expectations of what gets delivered to our doors these days.
Do you think this elevated use of online grocery services is sustainable, or will it fall back to previous levels?
This is the thing that shocked me the most. We did a survey and a quarter of respondents said they would decrease online grocery purchases slightly, but continue to use them at a different level. They won’t use it as much as they did during COVID, but will be using it more than they did before COVID. There’s still a low enthusiasm for online grocery shopping, but they have found it convenient to have stuff delivered to them.
Will what’s happened in the pandemic affect how brick and mortar retailers operate online going forward?
We’ve created an artificial hype cycle with COVID, but don’t think online grocery shopping is ever going to go down to what it was. This is a very big revelation. Brick-and-mortar retailers have been shown an opportunity. Consumer attitudes are changing as well. Twenty years ago, most of us thought “Who’s ever going to buy clothing online? The want to try it on.” Now we buy clothes online all the time. Department stores deplored Amazon. Now Kohl’s is accepting Amazon returns in their stores and will give you a 25%-off coupon when you bring your Amazon purchases back. We all change, even when we think an issue is insurmountable.