SAN FRANCISCO - Many consumers are turning to websites for their shopping fix, and retailers in Singapore and abroad are trying to woo them by allowing shoppers to collect online purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.
But a United States study shows that the option often saves little, if any, time over in-store shopping.
According to the results of a small study released yesterday by retail-intelligence firm StellaService, in-store pick-up saved shoppers just 96sec on average, compared with searching for items on their own.
In a few cases, in-store pick-up even took longer.
In-store pick-up 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.
Major US retailers, including Target and Toys 'R' Us, are already doing this.
The move comes in response to competition from the No. 1 US online retailer, Amazon.com, which has streamlined its delivery service.
The StellaService study, based on 44 visits to stores run by 11 retailers in the southern part of the US, is one of the most comprehensive studies so far on the in-store pick-up service.
The results show that retailers have no uniform approach to the concept.
"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 5min 24sec in a store when trying to pick up their online orders.
Those who did not use the in-store pick-up feature spent an average of 7min in the store, according to the study.
But in-store pick-up saved just 30sec at Target and Toys 'R' Us.
At Macy's, shoppers were not quite sure where to go. In-store pick-up took 8min 30sec, while those who walked in spent five minutes at a Macy's store.
In contrast, in-store pick-up took only two minutes at Office Depot, compared with four minutes for those who walked in.
Home Depot and Nordstrom were the only other retailers that were slower for in-store pick-up. Macy's and Home Depot could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nordstrom said one of the reasons it offers in-store pick-up for online items is to guarantee customers that the items 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 spokesman Brooke White said.