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Consumers: ‘We wish specialty retailers could deliver as fast as fast-food’

Al Urbanski
These two factors most influence social media brand perception

During peak hours at some of its locations, Chick-fil-A can fill the orders of 100 cars an hour during peak times.

That’s just one reason why more than 1,000 consumers aged 18 and older surveyed by a JLL company said specialty retailers should follow quick-service restaurants into retail’s new age.

Big Red Rooster, a brand experience firm owned by JLL, found that the number of home-bound consumers who flocked back to brick-and-mortar retail in 2021 receded in 2022. The reason: their expectations for speedy service during that time were greatly increased by pick-up and home delivery options championed by QSRs like Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell.

In 2021, 74% of consumers said that getting their merchandise immediately was a key factor in driving them back to shopping centers. One year later, only 63% saw that as a key attribute of brick-and-mortar

“If this trend continues its decline and instant gratification is no longer a differentiator driving consumers to brick-and-mortar, retailers are left to compete on the dimensions of experience and service alone,” read the report.

Of course, consumers had different expectations for product availability and speedy service in different retail sectors. Rating retail categories on a six-point scale where 0 was “I want to be in and out as fast as possible” and 6 was “I am okay to wait/stay awhile,” fast food, drug, and grocery operations registered scores below 3—meaning speed was a need. Retail categories rated above 3.0, which were allowed more time by consumers, included footwear, apparel, home improvement and home décor and furnishings.

Overall, just 20% of those surveyed said they were impressed by how fast they found their items on their last retail store visit compared to 29% who marveled at how fast fast-food had become. A resounding 47% agreed with the comment, “I wish visiting a specialty retail store was as fast as visiting a fast-food restaurant.”

Fast food innovations consumers said they’d most like to see adopted by retailers were:

  • Establish dedicated areas inside stores where shoppers could pick up their online orders;
  • Offer contactless payment systems workable on smartphones;
  • Set up curbside pick-up areas in parking lots;
  • Arrange for pick-ups from different retailers in common areas at shopping centers, and
  • Provide secure, 24-hour lockers for after-hours pick-ups.

An article on Chick-fil-A’s website details how the company’s drive-thru innovation chief Jared Solid builds full-scale mock-ups of new systems inside the company’s Atlanta headquarters and has real cars drive through them. On busy days, Chick-fil-A locations send staffers out to the car line to take their orders personally. Those are a few reasons why the QSR is able to fill orders from as many as 100 cars an hour.

“As we conceive of what’s next for specialty retail, we should consider ideas that have been championed and popularized by QSRs,” concluded Big Red Rooster. “Consumers are especially open to ideas that relieve pain points around the browsing, purchasing, and pick-up phases of the journey.”

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