One of the hottest growth segments in the retail industry right now is BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store). But many brands are missing the effects of BOPIS experiences on the brand itself.

Once an order is placed, it is the steps leading up to the in-store pickup that define the last mile. Here, customer experiences are as (or more) important to branding than brand marketing and advertising.

I recently partnered with Rakuten Ready to measure experiences in the last mile of BOPIS transactions to learn how they impact brand. To do so, we partnered with 750 secret shoppers to learn about the last mile experiences of 25 top brands across retail, QSR and grocery channels.

Brand is not only defined by a brand style guide but also through the experiences customers have and share. We quickly learned that brands are already moving too slowly to keep up with customer expectations, which is having a negative impact on the brands.

Customers are increasingly demanding and impatient

In our research, we learned that at the top of the list, time was the most important element shaping the brand experience and customer loyalty. For example, customers who waited less than two minutes to pick up their order were four times more likely to order again and become loyal customers. That two-minute benchmark is elusive to many of the brands we studied.

To add context to the experience, we documented times by three different types of pick up services: unattended, where customers pick up their order without help; attended, where customers interact with an employee; and curbside, where customers drive up and are greeted by an employee. Our research showed that there’s a lot of room for improvement across the board.


  1. Chipotle (0:39)
  2. Panera (0:57)
  3. Dunkin’ (1:10)


  1. Starbucks (1:15)
  2. Taco Bell (1:36)
  3. Best Buy (1:52)
  4. Nordstrom (1:55)
  5. Pizza Hut (2:35)
  6. Chick-Fil-A (2:39)
  7. Burger King (2:52)
  8. Five Guys (3:02)
  9. Target (3:16)
  10. McDonalds (3:19)
  11. Walmart (3:38)
  12. Ulta (3:25)
  13. Whole Foods (4:03)
  14. Home Depot (4:25)
  15. Lowe’s (6:27)


  1. Whole Foods (3:04)
  2. Chick-Fil-A (3:50)
  3. HEB (4:05)
  4. Meijer (4:50)
  5. Hyvee (5:17)
  6. McDonald’s (5:29)
  7. Albertsons (5:49)
  8. Rayley’s (6:17)
  9. Kroger (6:29)
  10. Walmart Grocery (7:03

Wait time is not the only metric

Even though time is a leading contributor to customer happiness or frustration, it’s not the only factor. For example, in several instances, customers arrived ahead of their scheduled pickup time and were pleasantly surprised to see their food already available. They were dissatisfied, though, to find that their meal was cold or not fresh and had just been sitting there.

Frustrated secret shoppers also reported a series of common worst practices among lower performing brands. In the chart below, we ranked customer experiences by overall customer satisfaction and wait time.

Click to enlarge

Beyond longer wait times, customers reported the following attributes missing, leading to negative customer and, consequently, brand experiences:

  1. Dedicated preparation lines or support staff for mobile orders.
  2. Designated in-store pickup areas and lines.
  3. Reserved parking spaces and lanes.
  4. Clearly marked signage directing mobile customers.
  5. Optimized apps that ensured an integrated end-to-end brand experience.
  6. Trained staff.

Make no mistake: Branding and customer experience are now entwined. Brands need to follow a blueprint that evolves traditional models for an on-demand world.

The following best practices can help deliver winning customer and brand experiences:

  • Prioritize wait time and measure performance in the last mile.
  • Build your infrastructure to support BOPIS.
  • Train and empower employees to deliver great experiences.
  • Grow the order for pickup program through marketing.
  • Scale and improve technology as markets evolve.

If saving time matters the most, then wasting time is exactly what not to do if you want to deliver exceptional customer and brand experiences. It’s critical that brands study digital and physical experiences in the last mile and across the entire journey to assess performance and experiences. Doing so will help brands reimagine the end-to-end customer experience in a mobile-first world.

Those brands that optimize wait times and performance will not only win, they’ll drive growth, foster loyalty and advocacy and cultivate a more modern, relevant and innovative brand.

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