As more and more consumers opt for a digital shopping experience, businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence are faced with a critical question: how do they maintain the relevance of their physical stores while managing to compete with their online competitors? Increasingly, retailers with a foot in both worlds are experimenting with a creating a shopping experience that blends the two realms, and finding that what was previously seen as an either/or proposition might be most effective as a both/and one.
Buy online, pick up in-store, or BOPIS, relies on a deceptively simple premise. What if a customer could make their purchase online, but skip the often pricey and time-consuming shipping step by picking up their items at a physical retail outlet? By increasing choice and convenience for customers, retailers can grow their eCommerce business without hurting their physical stores. In fact, Walmart attributes part of its 40% growth in online sales in 2019 to expanded grocery pickup, showing that when executed properly, BOPIS is a best-of-both-worlds opportunity.
However, as with all things eCommerce, the devil’s in the details. If your business is considering a BOPIS initiative, read on to make sure you understand what it takes to make a blended shopping experience is a success.
First, let’s start with a deeper dive on some of the reasons BOPIS is becoming so ubiquitous for retailers with both an online and brick and mortar presence. There are benefits for both retailers and customers, and recognizing the depth of these benefits is useful if you’re considering making a jump of your own.
Simply put, customers are coming to expect peak efficiency from their shopping experiences. BOPIS offers a more efficient experience in a world where consumers are always on the go. Additionally, specific benefits include:
From a retailer’s perspective, BOPIS isn’t just about improving the customer experience and boosting online sales. In fact, BOPIS also offers tangible secondary benefits that can allow both sides of your business to operate more efficiently. Consider these ancillary benefits, for example:
If BOPIS seems like a no-brainer, well, it kind of is. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Quality BOPIS implementation is excellent in theory, but getting it right in practice is no walk in the park. There are numerous technical and logistical challenges you’ll need to solve to make the initiative a success. We have experience implementing BOPIS for major retailers in the past, and here are some of the key pieces of advice we provide our clients at the start of any initiative.
Yes, customers want this. Yes, you’re missing out on sales that won’t happen without it. And yes, if your competitors don’t already offer BOPIS, they will soon.
But don’t let this feeling of urgency pressure you into cutting corners and releasing a half-baked BOPIS feature. Failing to get the technology and process right the first time can kill your reputation, and possibly even the long-term success of the feature altogether.
Remember, the reality of BOPIS is that it will touch nearly every facet of your business. From your commerce platform to your inventory system to your payment solution, there are more moving parts than you might at first realize.
If you don’t have one already, we’d strongly recommend using an Order Management System (OMS) to help. It doesn’t have to be robust, but having an OMS that enables a single view of orders and inventory is crucial to supporting alignment between web and store channels. Selling products you don’t have will lose every customer, so make sure that if lead time is required, you know how long it will take to provide accurate details.
Make sure you identify any technologies that diverge between your online store and physical locations. If different payment processors present a challenge for returns/swaps/cancellations, make sure you have a way to resolve these problems. If a customer goes to pick up their item, decides they don’t want it, and can only be offered store credit, not only will you risk losing a customer for life, but you risk creating a major headache for the store employees who are powerless to resolve the situation.
Finally, don’t overlook the non-technical components of a successful BOPIS rollout. Getting the in-store experience right is key to building trust and continued usage, so consider what it will take to create a seamless handoff from your online store to physical locations. If store employees don’t know what a customer is talking about upon arrival, or need to scramble to find the order, confidence will drop, and it may reduce the likelihood of the customer using the feature again in the future. Make sure customers receive the right information at the right time—where, when, and how to pickup—and configure your stores to make the process smooth from submission to fulfillment. Also, consider how volume will impact employees’ other responsibilities—understanding required staffing support will be key to gaining the planned upon efficiency benefits.
If you’re a retailer looking for a way to stimulate both your online and brick and mortar businesses, BOPIS might be exactly the type of feature that you need. However, as we’ve discussed, it’s critical to nail the key technology hurdles and operational requirements if you want BOPIS to be a success. We recommend starting small, proving the concept, then rolling out further once you’ve ironed out any difficulties.
Having an experienced partner to guide you through the process can be a big help. Avatria has rolled out BOPIS functionality on behalf of major retailers, and is prepared for the complications and hurdles that will arise. Contact us today to learn how we can help you make your BOPIS initiative a success.