Buy online, pickup in store — Understanding and managing the complexities – Chain Store Age

“Buy online, pickup in store,” or ‘BOPIS,’ combines the convenience of online shopping with the rapid fulfillment of traditional in-store shopping, offering customers flexibility and savings in the form of time and shipping costs. In the post-COVID economy, BOPIS has become increasingly popular with both retailers and consumers, particularly in the era of e-commerce and omnichannel retailing.
The demand for BOPIS is not surprising as it offers customers the convenience of shopping online from the comfort of their homes or on-the-go, while still allowing them to receive items quickly. Cost savings and delivery fees (which are sometimes factored into product cost) are also a consideration for many customers.
Also, for sustainability-minded consumers, BOPIS provides a more environmentally-friendly way to shop by reducing the emissions associated with individual home deliveries. From a retailer’s perspective, BOPIS has become essential to compete in today’s crowded marketplace and meet customer expectations. 
However, BOPIS also creates distinct opportunities for retailers by creating incentives for customers to visit physical stores and increasing the potential for additional in-store purchases. In addition, it reduces the retailers shipping costs by eliminating the need to deliver items directly. BOPIS also provides opportunities for cross-sell and up-sell by increasing the amount of time users spend shopping through this channel.
But while BOPIS represents a win-win for retailers and consumers alike, hurdles still remain to implementation. To reduce friction and enable the convenience that consumers increasingly demand, retailers need accurate real-time inventory visibility across their entire online and offline channels. Without a robust inventory management system potential for over-selling, stockouts and other stock-related discrepancies are high.
Retailers also need to ensure that their order fulfillment process is streamlined and efficient. This requires coordination between online and in-store operations, including picking, packing and staging orders for customer pickup. Lack of adequate in-store space, untrained staff, poor technology implementation and disjointed sales and promotion activities could hamper proper execution of an effective BOPIS strategy.
In addition, we must remember that adoption cannot be guided by a one-size-fits-all approach. Unique opportunities and challenges will exist within each sector and for each business. For example, a grocery store will need to implement a radically different strategy from an apparel retailer or a general merchandiser.
For a grocery retailer, the broad assortment of fresh, frozen, high value and perishable items, as well as the variety of package dimensions requires adequate handling and storage until the product has been received by the consumer. The comparatively large number of SKU’s (many of which may not be easy to identify) also makes fulfillment more difficult.
Seasonality and peak in-store operational times add to the complications that all retailers must face. For example, health and beauty retailers need to ensure that product sizes are right, expiration dates are checked and that products are not damaged or tampered with.
A BOPIS operation has significantly more points of interaction (and hence potential friction points) compared to in-store retail or even traditional online shopping. Ensuring right substitutions (whether by the retailer or through consumer choice), meeting expected or committed times and giving confirmations at multiple points in the customer journey (i.e. order completion, store arrival, order completion, etc.) are critical for successful BOPIS implementations.
Similar to any digital customer experience, ensuring correct categorizations, search optimization, and providing correct descriptions and images are all part of the omnichannel experience. In addition, a good BOPIS experience demands the inclusion of a digital framework that accurately suggests the right recommendations for customers for everything from the nearest store to the best results for search.
Furthermore, auto recommendations based on previous orders, current trends, inventory availability, and other features are all value adds that make the entire process more seamless. While a good mobile application is a competitive differentiator, planning for operations like staging as well as providing the right training to staff and having adequate staff for operations are also critical.
The final step of pickup should not be forgotten either. By ensuring associates have the exact customer location, assigning orders correctly for delivery, managing peak times for traffic and providing training for good communication and clarifications throughout the final delivery process will ensure that the customer experience is positive until the very end of the shopping journey.
 
Jonathan Colehower is managing director of UST’s supply chain practice. UST is a global digital transformation solutions provider. For more than 20 years, UST’s digital technology has transformed industries, businesses, and communities with digital products, platforms and services.

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