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Behold the Appointment Shopper: Efficient Consumers Look to Buy on Their Time

Over the past several months, retailers and consumers have been working to identify which pandemic-era habits are likely to stick around — curbside pickup for online orders, probably yes; wearing pajamas all day, most likely no.

Fokke de Jong, founder and CEO of Suitsupply, has another: making an appointment to shop with a merchant, once necessitated under COVID-19 capacity restrictions and now requested by consumers.

“People are more and more inclined to make appointments and to schedule time for their shopping,” de Jong told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “Before, you’d just go into town and browse around and shop. I think people are more destination shoppers by now — they go in for something very specific.”

Suitsupply schedules over 4,000 appointments per week at its 150 stores worldwide, de Jong said, and a lot of times, the retailer’s stylists are “just booked out.” Suits start at about $500, with shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks, shoes and accessories also available. The retailer has nearly 40 stores in the U.S. with the majority of the others located in Europe.

And while appointment shopping first emerged during the pandemic when people only left their homes for specific needs, he said, it has hung around even as restrictions have loosened, because “people are more efficient about how they go about their lives right now and how they address these kinds of things.”

“People say, ‘Okay, I’m not going to go in on a Saturday because it’s probably going to be busy. Let me block a time on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,’” de Jong said. “With working from home, people have gotten a little more flexibility, so sometimes you just run some errands in some other moments.”

To be sure, appointment shopping won’t work for everything — groceries, for example, or other purchases that don’t require as much person-to-person interaction, may be less likely to benefit from the feature. But PYMNTS research, conducted in collaboration with Carat from Fiserv, found that 31% of shoppers are making purchases at the physical locations of nationally known retailers less than they were last year.

And consumers aren’t making decisions based on online or in-store availability, per se. Rather, shoppers are choosing based on what fits with their schedule and whether they need the item now, from a store, or later, from an online marketplace. Clothing and accessories have seen the biggest shift in buying now to get later, the data shows, with 17% buying more of these products online and less in-store now than last year.

See more: Half of Shoppers Making More Buy Now, Get Later Transactions Than Last Year

This shift, de Jong said, is part of the reason that Suitsupply has focused on making stores more of an experience, with rooftop lounges for people to hang out in while clothes are tailored in addition to the appointments feature.

“We actually used COVID at some point to look at how can we add more experiential additions to our retail experience and make it more fun and more relaxed for people to shop,” he said.

Preventing a Dissatisfying Experience

Appointments not only provide consumers with more structured shopping time — retailers are also able to better prepare for each customer’s shopping experience.

“Shopping could be generally a dissatisfying experience if you see something online and it’s not in the store, or it’s not in your size,” de Jong said. “It’s never possible to have the same physical representation of what you see online in a store, and our style advisors being able to prepare for people to come into the store helped … our business, because there was more stuff available for them (customers), so they spent more.”

Related news: Retailers Rethink Appointments as an Easy Bridge That Can Boost Omnichannel Sales

John Federman, CEO of experiential relationship management platform JRNI, told PYMNTS earlier this year that while appointments can also help brands create a streamlined digital and physical experience for customers, “the sport of shopping,” or the non-specific time spent browsing stores, isn’t going away. Some retailers are also utilizing appointment scheduling to set up virtual queues for fitting rooms.

De Jong said that ultimately, appointment shopping is about making the experience “a lot more frictionless and effective for guys that want to look good and like to dress up, but don’t want to spend a huge amount of time shopping.”

“We found that people actually want to have the personal shopping experience, at least for our kind of product,” he added.

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