The order-online, collect-in-person shopping experience (click-and-collect) has been driving an increasing influence on retail customer loyalty since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by click-and-collect technology provider Rakuten Ready. This article is copyright 2020 The Best Customer Guide.

Since most of the United States went under 'Shelter In Place' restrictions in March, the volume of online Order-for-Pickup transactions increased by over 200% and more than 82% of consumers said they have used Order for Pickup to purchase from restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers in the last six months.

The study also identified those brands that offer the shortest wait times and highlighted the direct correlations between customer satisfaction ratings and other factors such as safety protocols in the Order for Pickup experience.

The 'Rakuten Ready 2020 Time Study' explored findings from Rakuten Ready's own data and research that includes secret shopper experiences at merchants in 11 major metropolitan areas in six states.

"Order for Pickup is a differentiator helping merchants enhance customer loyalty in the pandemic and will continue to provide a competitive advantage in a post-pandemic world," said Jaron Waldman, Co-Founder and CEO of Rakuten Ready. "Our study underscores that merchants have a tremendous opportunity to grow traffic and revenue by redefining and optimizing their Order for Pickup experience to adjust for consumer worries and gain their trust."

Wait times are important but there are other factors
Reducing customer wait times continues to be a key factor for producing long-term customer loyalty, the study found. The pandemic has made it even more important for consumers to spend as little time as possible in stores waiting to pick up orders. This extends the trend identified in last year's report that found customers who wait under two minutes for an order are four times more likely to repeat purchase from the same retailer or restaurant.

While speed is crucial to a superior Order for Pickup experience, new data in the study suggests that brands that fall short on wait times may be able to compensate with other factors. Brand loyalty, ease of process and uniqueness/value of products also contributed to customer satisfaction for brands that scored poorly on wait times.

"Our research found that time is precious for consumers, but overall satisfaction with the Order for Pickup experience hinges on more than speed alone," said Waldman. "Delivering a seamless pickup experience from start to finish is key to customer retention and satisfaction - starting from the moment a customer chooses a pickup option to the final step of safely picking up their order."