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Retailers Gift Time-Strapped Shoppers with Convenience This Holiday

Price may be king, but convenience governs much of the way traditional retailers are thinking about their customers today.

Retail chains continue to roll out new initiatives that help make online and in-store shoppers’ lives easier, while also boosting foot traffic and reducing online order fulfillment costs.

This year, Nordstrom is extending its holiday service to the parking lot with its new 24/7 curbside pickup service. From Dec. 16 to 24, shoppers can collect online orders without leaving their cars at 10 locations, including Seattle, Chicago and Dallas.

Discussing the company’s SG&A increase during the company’s Q3 earnings call, CFO Anne Bramman said Nordstrom has been “investing quite heavily in reducing customer friction, simplifying our checkout, looking at ways to improve our payment options.”

This also includes reserve online, try in store, which is available in 50 stores; same-day deliveries; BOPIS within an hour; and egift cards that go directly to recipients’ emails.

Each offering is part of the retailers’ attempt to “engage with customers on their own terms,” said co-president Blake Nordstrom. “We’re continually testing and learning from new concepts to deliver experiences that improve speed, convenience, and personalization for Nordstrom customers.”

Target is also taking the drive-up fulfillment option for a spin with a test in a few Twin City stores. Though the retailer has given it a go before, that was always through a third-party vendor. This time, the bull’s eye is going it alone with proprietary technology.

Target reported that in-store pickup has itself picked up by 30 percent in the first half of 2017 over last year. “As more and more of our guests respond to the convenience of order pickup, we are investing in system enhancements and store labor hours to continue to elevate the guest experience,” said EVP and COO John Mulligan, speaking on the company’s Q2 earnings call. He added he expects even more online sales to touch the store during the holidays as time-pinched consumers rely on this option.

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To make shopping even easier, the company’s next generation store, which recently opened in Richmond, Texas, dedicates one entrance to convenience trips. From there, customers can pick up orders curbside, pop in for online order fulfillment and easily access grocery items, gifts and home items, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Macy’s and Kohl’s are also encouraging customers to click and collect—for their own convenience and for the retailers’ benefit.

“The impact of ship from store and by online pick-up in store during in the fourth quarter is, as you can imagine, very high. And in particular, the impact of buy online pick-up in the store as we get closer to the holiday season accelerates really dramatically,” said Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell. “So said another way, I guess, the changes that we’ve made and initiatives we have put in place to drive customers to consider picking up in store, I think will pay us big dividends in the fourth quarter.”

This holiday, both Kohl’s and Macy’s have readied their store apps, baking in the convenience shoppers crave.

Each have a version of a tool that allows shoppers to snap a photo of the item they’re looking for and instantly get directed to similar goods. Additionally, Macy’s is touting the shoppers’ ability to use its app to check product availability and place orders, and Kohl’s is promising to expedite checkout with its Kohl’s Pay mobile payment option.

“We’ve enhanced our delivery options, whether it’s expanded same-day delivery services or buy online, pickup in store,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, adding the latter comes with additional benefits. “What you find is that not every customer converts on the radiated sales. And the customers that do, have a bigger up-spend. But the average is for all buy online, pickup in store sales, we get a 25 percent lift in overall sales,” said Gennette.

Last holiday, Walmart saw its Pickup Today service usage rise by 27 percent during the holidays when compared to 2015. This year, the big-boxer is motivating shoppers to lean into the service even more with its pickup discount, which rewards consumers for buying online-only items that they can then collect in store. It’s also doubling the number of locations where shoppers can pickup groceries.

And should these shoppers decide to purchase a few extras while in store, Walmart has created a color coding system that will be used throughout the store, in its circulars and and on the app to help visually direct consumers to product categories. Additionally, the sales help will be outfitted in coordinating vests.