Move Over Amazon. Other Retailers Are Catching Up

The big takeaway from this whole session is that retail apps—Amazon not withstanding, of course—make shopping from any retailer easier than it’s ever been, and seamless even when it comes to returning unwanted purchases. My house is now my dressing room. There is no harsh lighting, no line to wait in, and no store without your size. I always hated when I was in a store and found something I loved but they only had two sizes, too big or too small, and I went home more disappointed than if I’d never found the item at all. Now, if you need the next-size jeans, you can just open the app and have a new pair on the way before you’ve even taken off the first one.

The other benefit of these apps is their loyalty programs. Just like airlines, they have points, rewards, and coupons. There is always a new deal to check out, and if you find a dress you love but can’t afford, you can sign up to be notified when it goes on sale for the next awards ceremony. I love the free shipping, easy returns, and having the right size appear at my door. So many retailers have caught on now that, even if there weren’t a global pandemic at play, I wouldn’t want to shop in person if I didn’t have to.

Of course, none of this implies that the apps, or their catalogs, are perfect. One downside is that it is very easy to end up with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your cart, even if you are just browsing—and if you don’t try on the items and return them quickly, you can end up paying for the convenience, even if you ultimately send most of your order back.

In its fifth annual State of Returns Report, which captured sentiment from more than 1,000 consumers in the United States, the post-purchase pioneer Narvar reported that 52 percent of consumers plan to shop more online and less in stores this year, 37 percent plan to shop earlier this year and will prioritize retailers that offer clear delivery estimates, and 35 percent won’t make a purchase if they do not know when the item will arrive.

Macy’s is expanding its digital footprint by partnering with Mirakl for a curated digital marketplace that will “expand the company’s assortment in existing categories and brands and introduce a range of new categories, by enabling carefully selected third-party merchants to sell their products on Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com,” says Matt Baer, chief digital and customer officer at Macy’s. He says that Macy’s “digital business is targeted to generate $10 billion in sales by 2023.”

This holiday season, Target is also leaning into giving customers more online-friendly options, including new features to make the shopping experience even more convenient, whether you want to visit a brick-and-mortar store or not. You can order same-day pickup, and even same-day delivery via Shipt, with most orders delivered or ready for pickup within just a few hours. New this holiday season, you can also add grocery items to your order to make sure you get everything on your list. If you need extra help to complete your Target run, the Shopping Partner tool allows a friend or family member to pick up your order for you. Retailers are working to make it right.