With the help of connected car technology, the morning and evening commutes are no longer just a time for consumers to drive to and from work: These periods of the day between home and work life are also becoming a time where retailers can engage shoppers in contextual commerce experiences. That is, retailers can find an audience in consumers looking to pass the time on their daily commutes.
According to the new PYMNTS Digital Drive report, technology like smartphones and in-dash experiences are making the commute a $230 billion connected-commerce experience. At the same time, commuters are connected to the internet in their cars in increasing numbers: The report found that 73 percent of commuters said they connected to the internet while driving, which is up from 66.4 percent of commuters last year.
These commuters make up a large number of consumers ready to shop on the go, with the index pegging the number of connected consumers at approximately 99 million. These are some of the ways that these commuters shopped while on their commutes in the past week — and how retailers are creating offerings that could contribute to the connected commerce experience:
About half — or 47.2 percent — of commuters used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to find a gas station. In August, Shell, General Motors and mobile payments provider P97 announced a service that lets drivers use dashboard-embedded technology to find and pay for fuel. To provide the functionality, the technology taps into the GM Marketplace platform. (That also enables drivers to make dinner reservations as well as order coffee and food.) P97 CEO Don Frieden told PYMNTS in a prior interview, “It’s like setting up an Uber account for the first time. You just have to set it up once.” The platform can also show drivers discount offers and preauthorize a payment. Drivers receive a three-digit code to enter into a keypad at the pump.
Over one third — or 35.3 percent — of commuters used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to order food and pick it up at a drive-through. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for instance, is keeping an eye on the potential of drive-through lanes. Chipotle Chief Digital and Information Officer Curt Garner said, according to CNBC in May, “As we are looking at our real estate pipeline, part of the criteria that has been introduced is to understand how many of those sites might lend themselves to that experience, even if we don’t open them immediately with [the mobile lane] enabled.” As of that report, Chipotle currently has five locations with drive-thrus in the U.S. With the drive-thru lanes, customers order ahead through the Chipotle’s mobile app or an online form and are given a pickup time.
More than three in 10 commuters — or 33.4 percent — used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to order coffee to be picked up at a drive-through. And quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are designing their drive-thru lanes with mobile orders in mind. At a Quincy, Massachusetts Dunkin' store that opened in January of 2018, the chain was experimenting with a drive-through geared toward diners who order through the company’s DD Perks app. The aim is to prevent customers who ordered ahead from waiting in line behind customers who still need to make their selections. Beyond the drive-thru lanes, the new location came with a mobile order pickup area.
And 14.5 percent of commuters used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to order groceries to pick up. Walmart, in one case, announced that it started taking orders at its 2,000th location for grocery pickup in September. The company planned to have 2,140 access points in 430 markets by the end of its fiscal year, it was reported at the time. The company also announced in August that it will be testing robots to help it complete online grocery orders in a faster manner with the help of Alert Innovation. The Alphabot system was developed for the retailer and was to be installed at a supercenter location in New Hampshire, it was reported in August.
About one in 10 commuters — or 13.3 percent – used their connectivity during their commutes in the past week to order food to be delivered upon arrival. At the same time, food delivery firms are rolling out new business models. In August, DoorDash rolled out a subscription that provides consumers with unlimited access to nearby restaurants. The service enables consumers to get free delivery on orders of $15 or more for a monthly fee. Amid the launch, DoorDash had a year of big expansion: The company notched $535 million in investments from Sequoia Capital, GIC and SoftBank. It was reported last year that the food delivery company wanted to use the funding to grow into more cities.
With commuters shopping for gas, coffee, restaurant food and groceries, the morning and evening commutes have become a time for commerce. And along the way, connected devices are helping to change the drive from a point of the day for transportation — to an opportunity for retailers to reach shoppers.