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This Holiday, Retailers Give Shoppers the Gift of Convenience

Beyond the items on their Christmas wish lists, what shoppers are really hoping for this holiday season is convenience. While consumers have come to expect easy transactions and deliveries year round, the holidays is an even more harried time with jam-packed schedules and a slew of commitments. To ease the burden, retailers are expanding shopping features, providing more delivery options and retooling business hours to boost consumer spending.

Already, this holiday season is projected to be a strong one with sales up between 5 and 5.4 percent, according to consulting firm Deloitte. But the consensus is that registers won’t ring everywhere. Only those retailers who work at it will see the biggest gains, according to Roshan Varma, director, New York, at AlixPartners, who has called on retailers to “continue to build their brands, connect with their customers, operate efficiently and actually execute on the promises.”

When it comes to delivering on convenience, one service in particular has been hogging the headlines lately: buy-online, ship-to-store (BOSS).

BOSS is seen as the next evolution of BOPIS, which allows consumers to grab items available at that location and go. With BOSS, customers can skip delivery fees by shopping online and heading to their local store for pickup. For retailers, the advantage is the ability to circumvent the expense of last-mile fulfillment. For shoppers, it scratches the instant gratification itch—an entitlement stoked by Amazon and its fast, free Prime membership promise.

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In its 2018 Ominichannel Buying Report, e-commerce platform provider BigCommerce found that for 18 percent of the 3,000 digital consumers it surveyed, shipping fees were the least liked part of online shopping. Another 15 percent hate the wait associated with filling their virtual carts.

Recently, plus-size retailer Avenue has enhanced its mobile app to provide this service—and it’s not alone.

In addition to ramping up its Drive Up service, which allows shoppers to collect their purchases within an hour directly to their car, Target is giving consumers the option of picking up their online purchases in store.

Kohl’s, which reports 90 percent of its online sales already touch a store, is touting its BOSS service at more than 1,100 locations.

In addition to ease, Kohl’s in a statement said, “the initiative significantly broadens the assortment available in Kohl’s stores for our customers and has the added benefit of supporting the company’s priority to drive traffic to our stores.”

For its convenience and cost savings, BOSS ranked as one of the top four trends expected to drive holiday sales this season, according to commercial real estate services firm CBRE.

Along with a scramble to fill the void left by Toys R Us and the race to offer the most appealing loyalty perks, CBRE expects BOSS to be a big factor—and it’s closely related to omnichannel, which is the fourth leg of the stool.

“The lines between online and in-store are increasingly blurred as retailers recognize the interdependent nature of brick-and-mortar and online sales growth. Following extensive experimentation, retailers are learning to leverage online channels to drive store sales and vice versa,” the report stated.

Tying online and off, Nordstrom is making buy-online, pickup-in-store even easier. For the three weeks leading up to Christmas, Nordstrom is offering curbside, early bird pickup as early as 8 a.m. For shoppers who need an even more flexible window, select Nordstrom locations will provide the service around the clock for the nine days before Christmas.

“The retail landscape is evolving faster than ever before,” Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, told USA Today. “In order to meet the needs of our customers, we need to adapt and find new ways to offer them the experiences and service they’re looking for. These efforts are really centered around the ideas of personalization, speed and convenience.”

While Nordstrom is focused on online pickup, Walmart is enhancing in-store checkout.

Often seen as one of the biggest shopping pain points, retailers are constantly testing and tinkering with new solutions that will collect shoppers’ money and send them on their way faster. Starting Thursday, the retail giant is rolling out Check Out With Me, a new initiative that allows consumers to pay for their purchases via salespeople on the store floor rather than having to queue up in the checkout line.

And for shoppers popping into a Walmart where they’ve never shopped before or on the hunt for an item they’ve never needed before, the company’s app now displays a map of each store to help point them in the right direction.