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Brick & Mortar Remains King: The Value of In-Store Experiences

Clearly, the year 2020 was the year of e-tailing, e-shopping, and eCommerce with Digital Commerce 360 reporting that US “retail chains will end the year with a collective 76.8% growth in eCommerce1. However, don’t write off brick and mortar retail stores yet. Physical retail stores continue to play a powerful role in shaping the shopping experience. In this blog, we’ll answer the question, “why are brick and mortar stores important?” and share a few ways to improve your in-store experience.

Brick and Mortar Retail Stores: A Place to Try, Touch, & Taste

Although consumer return rates normally hover between 25-30%, Narvar reports that they skyrocketed to 70% in 2020!2 Experts predict that with virtually all stores open again, return rates will plummet as shoppers have the chance to touch and try on the merchandise. As Kate Reidel, Senior Vice President, Business Development at Parcel Pending, speculates, “Maybe physical stores will be where people go to touch and feel and determine the right size, but then they’ll order what they want so the store won’t have to house all of the merchandise for every shopper in any given moment. Consumers will get the gratification that comes from in-store shopping, and stores will have lower inventory and personnel requirements.”

Direct-to-Consumer Brands Embracing Physical Stores

The value of seeing and touching the merchandise hasn’t gone unnoticed by direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. Innovative partnerships are emerging allowing once only online brands to now occupy mainstream store shelves.

Harry’s, Native, Function of Beauty, and Lively are digitally native brands now available to shoppers at Target. Its deal with toothbrush brand Quip is particularly unique in that the electric toothbrush is stocked in-store and online, but refills are fulfilled by Quip’s own site drawing customers to the DTC site while scaling the company.

Nordstrom also inked deals with Glossier, Away, Bonobos, and Skims and Crate & Barrel launched an exclusive deal with Parachute allowing for brick-and-mortar shopping.

“Showrooming” used to be a derogatory term for browsing in a brick-and-mortar store and then buying the product elsewhere online as in browsing at Barnes & Noble and then purchasing at Amazon. Now, the concept has been turned on its head, as DTC brands are creating pop-ups and brick-and-mortar stores to incentivize consumers to purchase then and there. For example, Casper plans to open 200 physical stores across North America, and Adore Me announced similar plans to open 200-300 locations over the next five years.

The Value of Omnichannel Shopping Experiences

Omnichannel retail is about creating consistent experiences across apps, websites, social media, ads, and in-store visits to increase customer engagement. Put simply: customers want to purchase effortlessly and seamlessly across every platform. Shoppers also want to choose how they receive their merchandise whether it’s shipping, curbside pick-up, in-store pick-up, or pick-up in lockers. Retailers who monitored omnichannel trends and embraced multichannel shopping pre-pandemic saw Buy Online, Pick-Up in Store (BOPIS) grow 28% year-over-year in February of 2020 compared with 18% in January3.

BOPIL Boosts Customer Satisfaction, Sales, & Loyalty

While BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-Up in Store) is now mainstream with 90% of stores expected to offer the service in 2021, it’s the savvy retailers who are embracing Buy Online, Pick-up in Locker (BOPIL®).

Before Lowe’s installed smart Parcel Pending lockers, customer satisfaction rate averaged 49%. When smart lockers were installed in 1,700 brick and mortar stores, shopper satisfaction rates jumped to a whopping 81%!

Since it only takes less than 30 seconds on average to retrieve a package via BOPIL, customers rate their shopping experience higher than with other channels. Further, research shows that if the perceived wait time is less than two minutes, customers are four times more likely to purchase again.

The two-minute mark also remains magical when it comes to fast and easy returns management. Customers who collect their order from a smart locker and decide not to keep it, are able to communicate with the retailer and place it back into the locker for a no-hassle return.

Of course, it’s not simply customer experience and loyalty that matters in the retail space, but sales too. When a retailer helps a customer save time, that customer is significantly more likely to linger and make additional purchases while in the store. In fact, 61% of all customers make an additional purchase when retrieving their order via BOPIL4.

Leveraging the Power of BOPIL with Artificial Intelligence

Personalization in marketing messages remains an enormous opportunity with the help of smart lockers. Brick and mortar retailers can:

  • Offer Product Samples – With foot traffic down and samples virtually prohibited thanks to COVID-19, retailers can easily insert a relevant (and safely packaged) sample to customers within the secure locker motivating an additional shopping trip.
  • Personalize Coupons – Instead of generic coupons, coupons addressing the customer by name are powerful and can help with generating retail sales. Using sales history allows stores to tailor the right offer, track redemption rates, and cement customer loyalty.
  • Create Prize Giveaways – Incentivizing customers to roam the physical store when picking up their order is a big win for retailers. With the help of contests, prizes, and giveaways, brick and mortar stores can motivate browsers to convert into buyers.

With foot traffic at a representative sample of 52 malls in March up 86% from the same month one year ago, brick and mortar stores are encouraged by the statistics5. However, to harness the power of the retail recovery, stores must create compelling shopping experiences, cement customer loyalty, and boost sales through seamless omnichannel platforms. Smart lockers not only work to achieve these goals but provide the retail industry with opportunities to integrate artificial intelligence-enhanced marketing messages as well.

To speak to a representative about how smart lockers can boost your business, please contact retailsales@parcelpending.com or call (949) 327-1936. 


  1. Digital Commerce 360. 5 ecommerce data forecasts for 2020. (2020, November 20). https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/5-ecommerce-data-forecasts-for-2020/.
  2. Hickey, Alex. Morning Brew. E-commerce Returns Rose 70% in 2020. (2021, January 10). https://www.morningbrew.com/daily/stories/2021/01/10/ecommerce-returns-rose-70-2020.
  3. Briedis, Holly, et al. McKinsey & Company. Adapting to the next normal in retail: The customer experience imperative. (2020, May 14). https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/adapting-to-the-next-normal-in-retail-the-customer-experience-imperative.
  4. Parcel Pending. How BOPIS Lockers Can Help Retailers Succeed. (2020, April 1). /en-ca/blog/how-bopis-lockers-can-help-retailers-succeed/.
  5. Fung, Esther. The Wall Street Journal. Shoppers Return to Malls, With an Urge to Spend. (2021, April 27). https://www.wsj.com/articles/shoppers-return-to-malls-with-an-urge-to-spend-11619501737?.