The retail industry has been changing rapidly over the past several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated the retail evolution. What Amazon started with prime delivery of everything from clothes to computers to food has allowed consumers to sit at home and pick up their phones to order whatever they suddenly remembered they were missing with the expectation of two-day, then one-day, and now same-day delivery.
After almost a year of stay-at-home mandates, so-designated “essential retailers” rapidly adopted buy-online, pickup-in-store (BOPIS), curb-side pickup, and free or nearly free home delivery. Even with the pandemic slowly fading into what has been termed a “new normal,” consumer surveys indicate that many of these customer service strategies will remain in use by consumers who have enjoyed the time saving realized with these services.
The convenience economy was coined a few years ago as more and more consumers were pushing retailers to help them save time in their everyday busy schedules. Much of this may be driven by tech-savvy younger generations who seek and “expect” help in all phases of their lives. Just ask their baby-boomer parents who have been sometimes not-so-gently coerced into being unpaid caregivers of their grandchildren.
The grocery industry is a great example of evolution of retail to meet new demands. Fully prepared meals and recipes in a box for preparing at home have grown significantly in recent years. Subscription services for home delivery of meals like Blue Apron and HelloFresh have exploded. With the pandemic, every generation of consumers have taken advantage of ordering groceries online or via store app to have retailers pick the groceries and hold them for curbside pickup or delivery.
Retailers talk a lot about enhancing the “customer experience” both in stores and online. The convenience economy is pushing the customer experience strategies that are fueling the retail evolution. The brands that are agile enough to change quickly are winning the battle for customers over the brands that are slower to respond.
As an example, I placed an online order with one of my favorite top-fifty retail brands that has local stores and distribution centers in my city. Normally, I would visit a store to purchase what I was ordering, but for various reasons could not. Their website was easy to use. I found what I needed and placed the order for free home delivery. At checkout, the system said delivery was expected in “1–6 business days.” Frankly, that shocked me, but I thought that given the company’s many stores and DCs near me, I would likely get my order sooner rather than later. Wrong. It was four days before I even received notification that my order had shipped for delivery on Monday. It wasn’t. I tracked the order that now said delivery on Tuesday. It wasn’t. It finally arrived on Wednesday, a full week after I placed the order. Do you think I will place another order with that company? Not likely. Do you think their e-commerce business is flourishing? Not likely.
Why am I discussing a customer-service and e-commerce issue in a magazine aimed at loss prevention professionals? Our readers are some of the most nimble and accomplished project managers in the retail enterprise. And you are active influencers with your peers; often with the ear of the C-suite.
Asset protection organizations are in a great position to not only help but actually lead the retail evolution. It’s a challenge that many of you have already accepted. If you have not, you should. My guess is the loss prevention executive at the brand referenced above could fix the situation post haste.