Christmas online shopping

Early in the holiday shopping season, Accenture’s holiday report predicted pandemic-related shifts in consumer behavior would put online shopping with fast, free shipping options on the top of consumers’ wish list this year. And, importantly, the company warned retailers who do not deliver upon expectations for a seamless experience will be likely to lose customer loyalty.

According to Accenture’s latest holiday shipping data retailers were largely able to live up to shipping expectations and promises — while ramping up BOPIS and curbside pickup options — despite experiencing two to three times higher e-commerce and BOPIS order volumes on Cyber Monday.

Notably, while the company’s holiday report found only 11 percent of consumers reporting they were willing to use methods of buying online and picking up in-store, consumers are now proving to be more open to the options. Accenture noted that retailers have been pushing both BOPIS and curbside pickup heavily this season with several providing promotions or incentives for choosing these methods. Further, there has been an increase of retailers offering pick-up methods with 65 percent participating this year as compared to 52 percent in 2019. Another 57 percent of retailers are now also offering contactless pickup, something that has not been available in previous years.

“Retailers have been creative in trying to ‘flatten the curve’ and it seems these efforts are paying off, especially given significantly increased volumes in the e-commerce and [BOPIS] categories,” said Steve Osburn, managing director in Accenture Strategy’s retail industry sector. “The work is just beginning, and with local shutdowns, carrier capacity issues and consumer safety concerns, this season continues to be one of the most challenging that many retailers have ever seen. Success will require flexibility to update current plans when things change, creativity to come up with new solutions on the fly, and agility to implement the new plans in time to meet consumer demands throughout the rest of the holiday season.”

The study also analyzed deliver to home orders placed with 116 retailers across several categories looking to measure shipping speed, order accuracy and delivery costs. Top-performing retailers were those that were able to complete fastest delivery without order errors and included: Zara, The North Face, Staples, Zappos, Patagonia, CVS, Finish Line, Ulta, Lowe’s, Office Depot, DSW, Cole Haan, Amazon Prime, Wrangler, Best Buy and Timberland.

Still, data revealed delivery timelines have slowed when compared to previous years. Order fulfillment saw an average of 2.8 days as opposed to just 1.8 days in 2019 and no retailers managed to deliver in a single day compared to three in 2019. Twenty-one percent of orders arrived in one week, down just slightly from 22 percent in 2019.

Overall, the analysts said they are encouraged that retailers have managed to avoid a supply chain crunch to date, however, remain cautious “with carriers placing shipping caps, there’s some question about whether retailers are going to make the promises that they will ultimately struggle to fulfill in the coming weeks.”

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