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Study: In-store fulfillment primed for biggest holiday season yet

Despite the rise of e-commerce, physical stores are attracting more shoppers — especially as retailers combine unified commerce services.

More than half of consumers (54%) prefer to shop in-store over any other method (online, mobile or social media). While in-store however, shoppers expect a quick and easy shopping experience, according to the annual “JDA Consumer Survey.”

Specifically, 75% expect the merchandise they want to be in-stock — they prefer this over being offered a personalized experience. To satisfy this customer demand during the next two months of holiday shopping, retailers must combine the convenience of unified commerce solutions that consumers demand with the right inventory visibility and well-trained staff to create a seamless holiday shopping experience at the store level, the study said.

One convenience consumers are fully embracing is in-store fulfillment. Half of respondents reported that they have used BOPIS in the last 12 months, which saw a 44% increase since the “2015 JDA Voice of the Consumer” survey. The ability to get the product sooner was stated as the top reason shoppers chose to use BOPIS (33%).

For retailers looking to leverage BOPIS to drive in-store foot traffic, offering incentives may be the key. That said, 80% of respondents stated they would consider using the service if retailers offered price discounts or incentives. This would add value to the consumer shopping experience, while pushing retailers to differentiate themselves among competitors through special offers, the study said.

Preparing for the holiday season also includes being ready for returns afterwards. Consumers have a clear desire for easier returns, as over 30% of respondents used buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) to avoid the hassle of returns online. Almost one in five respondents (17%) believed they would receive their refund or exchange faster through this service.

“This is a crucial opportunity for retailers looking to develop a unified customer experience that exists both online and in-stores,” said Jim Prewitt, VP, retail industry strategy, JDA. “Promoting convenience will be critical in driving brick-and-mortar foot traffic; retailers will need to execute these fulfillment services flawlessly to maintain customer loyalty.”

Retailers embracing store fulfillment also recognize the staffing requirements needed to enable BOPIS and BORIS services. According to JDA’s “CEO Viewpoint: The Transformation of Retail” survey announced in February, retail CEOs are increasing their investment in BOPIS, with 51% of survey respondents planning to offer BOPIS in the next 12 months – up from 47% in 2016.

By offering these fulfillment services, it’s important that retailers are equipped to meet customer demands. Based on the second annual “JDA Voice of the Store Manager” survey announced in September, 60% of store managers plan to hire the same amount of temporary labor for the 2017 holiday season as they did last year; while 24% plan to hire more this year.

However, the focus of the seasonal staff may be changing to meet customer demand. Over 40% of seasonal holiday hires will be for fulfillment at stores/warehouses and not customer-facing. The other area that store managers are planning to increase hiring for is BOPIS, with one in three respondents hiring temporary staff specifically for the service this year, the study said.
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