Does In-Store Pickup Save Customers Time? Not Really.

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This story originally appeared on Reuters

Major U.S. retailers including Target Corp and Toys 'R Us have begun allowing shoppers to collect online purchases at their brick-and-mortar stores, but a study shows the option often saves little, if any, time over in-store shopping.

According to a small study to be released on Tuesday by retail-intelligence firm StellaService, in-store pickup saved shoppers just 96 seconds on average compared with searching for items on their own. In a few cases, in-store pickup took longer.

In-store pickup is one of many services being tested as retailers try to use their stores as mini-shipping hubs to get items to shoppers more quickly. It comes in response to competition from the No. 1 U.S. online retailer, Amazon.com, which has streamlined its delivery service.

The StellaService study, based on 44 visits to stores in the South run by 11 retailers, is one of the most comprehensive studies so far of the in-store pickup service. The results show that retailers have no uniform approach to the issue.

"It's amazing just how much simpler the process would have been if someone had just put up a sign," said Ty McMahan, senior director of content for StellaService, adding that retailers are spending "tens of millions of dollars" on these initiatives.

Shoppers spent an average of 5 minutes and 24 seconds in a store when trying to pick up their online orders. Those who did not use the in-store pickup feature spent an average of 7 minutes in the store, according to the study.

But in-store pickup saved just 30 seconds at Target and Toys 'R Us. At Macy's Inc, StellaService shoppers were not quite sure where to go. In-store pickup took 8 minutes and 30 seconds, while those who walked in spent 5 minutes at a Macy's store.

By contrast, in-store pickup took only 2 minutes at Office Depot Inc, compared with 4 minutes for those who walked in.

Home Depot Inc and Nordstrom Inc were the only other retailers that were slower at in-store pickup. Macy's and Home Depot could not be immediately reached for comment.

Nordstrom said one of the reasons they offer in-store pickup for online items is to guarantee customers that it will be there for them if they make a visit to the store.

"We are always looking at ways to improve the service for our customers," Nordstrom spokeswoman Brooke White said.

 

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Additional Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Ken Wills.)

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