Are retailers over-promising last-minute BOPIS?
By all indications, Walmart may have launched the first holiday ad dedicated to BOPIS (buy online, in-store pickup).
Set to the eighties classic song from Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the television commercial, “Walmart Holiday Shopping: The Moment,” shows a series of individuals during holiday time panicking after suddenly realizing they had forgotten to buy a present for a loved one.
“Get great gifts last minute,” the copy on the ad reads. That’s followed by “Order online, 6 p.m. December 23rd. Free pickup on Christmas Eve.”
In announcing its holiday plans in late October, Walmart said it receives up to five times as many same-day pickup orders during the period as in a normal week. For the current season, Walmart expanded the assortment available for pickup and is allocating additional pickup staff, including dedicated managers in every store for the first time.
A few competitors are even more aggressively promising last-minute pickups. Best Buy is offering in-store pickup for any orders placed by 4 p.m. on December 24. Bed, Bath & Beyond’s deadline is 2:00 p.m. and Macy’s is noon on December 24. But Kohl’s cut-off BOPIS date is December 23rd, and many stores, including Target, Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney, aren’t prominently promoting the service on their home page.
An eMarketer article from early December noted that retail in general struggled with BOPIS during last year’s holiday selling season as many tried it for the first time. eMarketer retail analyst Yory Wurmser noted that the basics, such as communications, may be better handled this year; inherent structural problems will likely take longer to resolve.
“For one thing, the physical space for pickup zones needs to be prioritized and put in a prominent, easy-to-access place,” he said. “Second, the inventory systems need to be updated for order tracking and customer fulfillment. The systems are out there, but a lot of retailers are moving more slowly in implementing them than they should.”
- Walmart Holiday Shopping: The Moment – YouTube
- Will Retailers Trip on In-Store Pick-Up This Christmas? – emarketer
- Walmart Unveils Holiday Plans: Invests in Pickup, Introduces Holiday Helpers – Walmart press release
- Buy Online Pickup In-Store – Macy’s
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are retailers prepared to make good on this year’s aggressive promises for last-minute holiday in-store pickup? Do you see in-store execution, communication, inventory visibility or some other factor as the weakest link?
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12 Comments on "Are retailers over-promising last-minute BOPIS?"
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Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Aggressive BOPIS promises appear to be the “arms race” of the 2016 holiday shopping season for the big brands. Consumers’ desire for last minute, just-in-time gift delivery appears insatiable and retailers are lining up to serve this need. While some retailers are actually delivering on the promise — a good sign that executional issues are being resolved/managed — those retailers that don’t risk permanent damage. Failing to deliver on a holiday gift is unforgivable.
Last minute BOPIS is a high-risk, high-reward service around the holidays. Done right, it can engender loyalty and praise; failing to deliver though could turn off a customer forever. The last mile of in-store execution tends to be most challenging for most retailers; however, we’re seeing more and more retailers having the necessary technology and operational failsafes to be successful.
President, Max Goldberg & Associates
Some retailers are prepared, others are not. To have an effective BOPIS system retailers need to have excellent inventory information, employees who are trained to run it and determination to make it easy for consumers to utilize it. My wife and I went to Macy’s yesterday for a last-minute gift. Directions for BOPIS were on every door. Of course one had to walk through the store and go to the second floor, but the information was prominent.
Co-founder, RSR Research
As long as they’re sure, sure, sure that they can fulfill the promise (that the product is in-stock), I think it’s fine. It gets people into the store, saves on shipping costs and allows for impulse buys. I think it’s great.
But retailers across all verticals keep telling us they don’t have full visibility into what their inventory is at any moment in time.
So I guess it’s a good news/bad news scenario. If they are sure they have enough inventory to fulfill their promise on Christmas Eve, then they likely bought too much. If they’re not sure, best not to play at all.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
The likelihood of a customer having success by ordering at the “last minute” and picking up in-store may be higher than hoping the order shows up at their home. The retailer’s system should only allow items to be ordered that can be picked up in-store. The system knows what’s in a local (or close) distribution center or what can be moved from store to store. BOPIS, while not as convenient as having home delivery, is a close second.
Principal, Your Retail Authority, LLC
While a well-oiled machine is best to pull this off, inventory visibility is key. If the item is available and the customer can get to the store, they will eventually get their item, good service or not. During last-minute holiday shopping most customers understand they are pushing their luck so their expectation does drop just a tad.
I must say that I applaud Walmart for the ad that encourages customers to use BOPIS. This is a much more reliable option for last-minute goodies and if what they wanted is not available, at least they can pick up something else.
For my 2 cents.
Vice President of Marketing, OrderDynamics
Despite the importance of inventory visibility … I still don’t see it done particularly well across most retailers. It is key to making BOPIS a reality, yet still a weak link.
Agree with you to applaud Walmart. Yes, they will have to make sure to be able to deliver, and have the staff ready to do some in-store picking/running … and expect that they will reap the rewards of added loyalty and customer satisfaction — presuming they pull it off well.
Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting
The right answer is that we’ll all know on December 26. As to the second part of the question, the answer is, all of the above. As stated, it is sort of a trifecta of retail doom but, if you add in poor in-store service, you have a perfect storm for disappointed holiday shoppers. The whole point is that there is no one weakest link, but rather three, four or more places where any individual order could go wrong and — if that’s your order we are talking about — you’re going to be very, very unhappy with the retailer.
President, Global Collaborations, Inc.
Consumers still have to drive through traffic and manage the parking lot when picking up items. In some cases they still have to go inside to pick up their items and stand in line. Does this really offer a big benefit? The only advantage seems to be perusing items with no crowds and that may be a big advantage in addition to knowing the item is there for you. However, companies have to make this process work.
Founder & CEO, ReturnLogic
This category is reserved for retailers that have essentially exhausted every other efficient marketing opportunity and are now targeting smaller customer personas. In this case the customer that literally waited until the last minute. How big that market is and how efficiently retailers can access it will ultimately determine if we see this trend continue.
The weakest link is planning ahead for the rush. Retailers shouldn’t be surprised by last-minute purchases. With absolute certainty, there will be more procrastinating shoppers this year. Good for Walmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond and other to build a marketing program around last minute BOPIS.
For the first time in five years, Christmas Eve is on a Saturday. A full 76% of adult shoppers say they plan on making holiday purchases right up until Christmas, according to a study from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Most of us don’t brag about it, but most of us do it. Start your engines and sharpen your elbows.
Retail and Customer Experience Expert
At the end of the day it is about making promises and keeping them. If you are going to promote something and can’t deliver, you are damaging your brand. In-store execution and having the personnel and space to handle the pick up in store expectations is going to be the key, as well as accurate view of product availability in the store. Fail at any of these steps, and you are just increasing dissatisfaction.