H-E-B, Whole Foods top grocers for curbside pickup experience, according to study

H-E-B delivered 16% of curbside orders to customers in less than 2 minutes but fulfilled an impressive 84% of orders within 6 minutes.

Customer service and convenience are two vital intangible store brands. Even if a retailer offers great store brand products, it doesn’t mean that customers shopping online will buy them if the order-for-pickup customer experience leaves a bad taste in their mouths. If customers have to wait too long or just find the overall experience dreadful, there’s a good chance they might go elsewhere for their groceries, including private label products.

With that in mind, Rakuten Ready, a San Mateo, Calif.-based location-centric mobile commerce platform that connects grocery stores with mobile customers, recently announced the results of its “Rakuten Ready 2019 Time Study,” where the company enlisted secret shoppers to evaluate the order-for-pickup customer experience and wait times for some of the top grocery retailers in the U.S. The study found San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B and Austin, Texas-based grocer Whole Foods Market to be the top retailers for a positive order-for-curbside-pickup experience that included convenience of parking spots, dedicated pickup areas, readiness of the order and staff aptitude for handling orders.

Whole Foods had the lowest wait time for curbside pickup at 3:04. Close behind was H-E-B at 4:05.

Meijer clocked in at 4:50, Hy-Vee at 5:17, Albertsons at 5:49, Raley’s at 6:17, The Kroger Co. at 6:29 and Walmart at 7:03.

The average wait time for all grocers was 5:21. Seven percent of all orders were ready in less than 2 minutes, and 66% of all orders were ready in less than 8 minutes, according to the report.

H-E-B delivered 16% of curbside orders to customers in less than 2 minutes but fulfilled an impressive 84% of orders within 6 minutes, the study said. H-E-B offered a solid end-to-end experience with in-app communication, priority parking spots, prominent signage and well-trained employees.

“I enjoyed the experience at H-E-B. They were busy, but I found a parking spot and then waited for the employee to find my car. It went pretty smooth,” a secret shopper said.

Based on Rakuten Ready order data, customers who waited less than 2 minutes were four times more likely to be repeat, loyal customers.

Optimizing wait time is critical, the study found. The mobile-first customer journey also requires an innovative, convenient and seamless pickup program that stretches beyond traditional infrastructure, processes and capabilities.

"Just offering order for pickup or delivery is not as simple as adding a feature on your website or app and marketing the service," said Jaron Waldman, Rakuten Ready co-founder and CEO. "It is critical that brands fully understand customer expectations so they can focus on improving the end-to-end experience — particularly that dreaded last mile, which can make or break the whole experience with your brand."