Shipt Says Shortened Delivery Times The New ‘Normal’

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If there are any certainties in online commerce they may boil down to these statements: Contactless is here to stay, and the last mile might always change. To that end, Rina Hurst, chief business strategy officer at eCommerce firm Shipt, told PYMNTS that retailers and online platforms have to be ready to meet the consumer where he or she wants to be met — in store, yes, but on the doorstep, too.

And 2020, it should come as no surprise, has shifted the retail landscape even more firmly toward platforms and a range of omnichannel options.

In terms of the company’s own efforts, the firm has noted that the delivery-only service, Shipt Driven, grew by more than 240 percent in 2020, with an attendant 40 percent increase in the number of delivery-only retail partners served by the company. As to what has changed — Hirst pointed to the fact that contactless shopping is important to a majority of customers — more than 80 percent of them.

At a high level, as she told PYMNTS: “Contactless shopping is a trend that has come to stay — and it starts with online shopping. We saw a seismic shift in growth in the online channel in 2020 that we anticipated will be here for the foreseeable future.”

Same day delivery — in tandem with the Shipt app and platform — she maintained, is a complement to contactless payments.

Retailers that have thus far, amid the pandemic, added in-store/curbside pickup or buy online pickup options have found that same-day delivery also helps buoy top-line results. These forward-thinking merchants, she added, have become truly omnipresent as they’ve embraced all aspects of the omnichannel experience, meeting the consumer wherever he or she may be on their respective commerce journeys.

The last-mile-option, she added, is “a combination that really seems to be working for most retailers.” As has been noted in this space previously, the Shipt platform is curated across a number of verticals, spanning everything from groceries to toys to pharmaceuticals (and of course, Target, Shipt’s parent company), with 120 retailers in place across its platform.

Shipt’s shoppers, too, also interact, continuously, with end customers throughout the shopping journey, from the initial building of a “basket” of purchases through the last mile to, ultimately, delivery (through Shipt Driven, the firm’s last-mile delivery solution, where delivery windows can be as short as an hour).

She described a consumer mindset that is in the midst of shifting (and where the company ended the year with 350,00 Shipt shoppers, up from about 150,000 at the start of the year).

Two-Day Shipping — No Longer Speedy Enough

“It’s not about two-day shipping anymore,” she said, adding that “one-day shipping, now, is about ‘I want to get an item at a certain hour at my door, and I want it to be done reliably and safely.’ ” That shifting mindset provides a competitive advantage for companies such as Shipt that tap into the emerging gig economy, where a typical Shipt Shopper may be looking to supplement income — or use the company as primary source of earnings.

Of the gig economy in general, she said, “there is a lot of room for competitors in this space. This is a large industry that has seen a lot of change – there is a lot of space for all of us.”

As to what the end consumers are buying, said Hirst, looking back at the holiday shopping season that has just passed, the stay-at-home mindset that has been a hallmark of the pandemic gave rise, for example, to 150,000 board games sold to consumers (with Jenga a standout), to increased buying in the electronics and apparel categories, among others.

Looking ahead, with the convergence of a variety of verticals across the platform, flexibility is key in meeting customer demand, maintained Hirst — across online and physical channels.

“If there is anything we learned from last year is that we don’t know what the future will hold in this space,” she told PYMNTS.

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