Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

Photo: Getty Images/hapabapa
Jan 10, 2022

Consumers still overwhelmingly prefer home delivery to buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), according to the results from a just-released study.

The survey of over 3,000 U.S. consumers from August 2021 commissioned by regional carrier LaserShip found 89 percent preferring home delivery over BOPIS, up from 80 percent saying the preferred home delivery in a June 2020 survey.

BOPIS took off during the pandemic and usage was expected to be impacted as in-store restrictions eased.

A Raydiant survey from January 2021 found the leading reason why consumers use BOPIS offerings was COVID-19 concerns, cited by 35.4 percent. That was followed in the top-five by the desire to avoid shipping fees, 19.7 percent; to avoid interacting with people for non-health related reasons, 11.8 percent; to avoid the time spent browsing for items in-store, 9.9 percent; and to avoid waiting in a checkout line, 8.6 percent.

An April 2021 ChaseDesign survey found about half of grocery shoppers who use BOPIS began doing so during the pandemic, but only half of those customers planned to continue in the future. Of all respondents, 54 percent preferred to pick items out in person and 40 percent wanted the experience of shopping in a physical store.

That survey found the top frustrations associated with using BOPIS were product availability, quality, missing items from orders and wait times. Nearly half would avoid using BOPIS to buy meat/seafood, about 40 percent to buy dairy, produce and frozen products, and about 35 percent to order deli or bakery. Forty percent reported waiting 10 minutes or more for their BOPIS orders upon arrival.

For retailers, encouraging BOPIS was seen as a way to reduce the shipping costs of e-commerce. A second path to mitigating the cost is to have customers pay more for shipping.

LaserShip’s survey found consumers increasingly open to paying for faster delivery. Nearly 60 percent of shoppers surveyed paid for faster delivery, with 69 percent of those having paid more for next-day delivery. In the June 2020 survey, 62 percent had never paid for expedited delivery. However, the latest survey also found a free shipping option remained an expectation.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has BOPIS lost a significant amount of its appeal as in-store restrictions have eased? Should BOPIS be marketed or incentivized more to drive usage or should retailers scale back on dedicated parking spots and staffing to realign with shopper behavior?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"BOPIS use will decrease but the offering will not go away. "
"For consumers, BOPIS provides safety; for retailers, BOPIS provides a direct pipeline to individual consumers."
"The COVID-driven dimension of BOPIS may wax and wane with the rise and fall of pandemic numbers. But the long-term baseline use of BOPIS is likely to increase..."

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36 Comments on "Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?"

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Mark Ryski

People are starting to revert back to their normal shopping behaviors. I believe BOPIS will continue to grow, and the retailers who do BOPIS exceptionally well will have a competitive advantage. And let’s not forget, there will likely be other pandemics in our future and a well-oiled BOPIS program will be critical to success.

Neil Saunders

For many retailers, BOPIS is still growing. For most, it is a more significant part of their business than it was at the start of 2020. It reflects a win-win for both consumer and retailer. For shoppers, it is convenient and helps them streamline shopping trips; it also allows products to be received quickly which, in some instances, is important. For retailers it is, usually, a more cost effective fulfillment method than home delivery. That said, as pandemic related trends unwind, growth has moderated. The rise of fast, often same-day, delivery has also stolen some of the thunder of BOPIS – although the speedy delivery model still has a lot to prove in terms of its economics.

Doug Garnett
10 months 17 days ago

We shouldn’t expect any of the shifts during the pandemic to stick fully. And regarding BOPIS for grocery (which seems to have the most discussion in the survey) it is no surprise to see interest drop – for all the reasons in the survey.

Overall, though, retailers should be encouraged with what the survey says: people like to shop in stores. From this point, retailers should focus on that truth and stop chasing the shiny baubles hawked by Amazon and others.

Nikki Baird

I feel like this survey blended/confused the ideas of BOPIS, BOPAC, and home delivery in weird ways. And there is always the warning that you can look at what consumers SAY, but then you must also look at what consumers DO. December was a blockbuster month for BOPIS – for our customers, it was the largest volume of BOPIS orders both in terms of absolute dollar value and in percentage of overall fulfillment ever. It’s important to keep in mind that customer preference for BOPIS is also highly dependent on inventory availability (as in, if you’ve hit a holiday shipping cutoff for the website, your only option to get something is to pick it up in-store), and that this preference for BOPIS will vary throughout the year depending on things like shipping cutoffs.

David Naumann

It seems logical that BOPIS shopping has declined a bit since the peak of the pandemic. Now that stores are open and I haven’t seen any capacity restrictions in months, in-store shopping has become more prevalent. Whether retailers should push BOPIS more depends on the profitability of transactions. In-store shopping is probably the most profitable, followed by BOPIS and then home delivery.

Liza Amlani

BOPIS use will decrease but the offering will not go away.

Customers will continue to expect a digital first experience across all retail and BOPIS/curbside options are considered standard offerings. Retailers are also learning valuable insights through the data from these pandemic driven practices. These insights can help feed marketing and product decisions and retailers shouldn’t lose sight of what they could learn to help better serve and delight the customer through deeper engagement. BOPIS also drives brand loyalty. BOPIS may decrease but it will never go away and it shouldn’t.

Dr. Stephen Needel

BOPIS was never a great idea – it was a solution to a problem that is diminishing because we have other solutions (masks, more vaccinations, social distancing, etc.). I’m not surprised it’s fading. I still like it as a way to avoid shipping, but that’s the end of it’s benefit.

David Biernbaum

All bets are off once again while Omicron continues to build momentum. However as convenient as BOPIS might be, it’s not nearly as convenient as having goods delivered to your front door. In addition, with a labor shortage still existing, curbside pick up has slowed or has even been suspended in some situations.

Ken Morris

We are in the middle of an incredible spike in COVID-19 cases, so BOPIS and BOPAC are not dead. If you compare it to delivery, it has lost volume, but we are not safe yet — to reuse a quote from an old movie (Marathon Man). I would not realign until we know it’s over and the variants stop.

Of course shoppers would prefer to go inside the grocery store and pick the best produce they can find. But if they don’t go into the store to do that, then home delivery would probably be the preferred option, as long everything is delivered fresh.

David Spear

BOPIS will definitely trend downward as restrictions ease across the country. That said, the lessons taken from BOPIS will serve retailers well for a long time and these insights can be leveraged in many other parts of their business, such as home delivery and in-store shopping experience. IT departments had to pivot quickly with BOPIS and most did an incredible job of piecing together services that otherwise weren’t ready for prime time. This was a representation of MVPs, of proofs of concept on steroids and, for the most part, it worked well. These implementation skills will be incredibly important in defining the next set of differentiated experiences and offerings that will keep retail on the disruptive edge.

Jeff Sward

Survey says — customers actually like shopping! Sure, some people just want to get out and about again. And absolutely BOPIS is here to stay. So let’s not be surprised that growth has moderated, but let’s also be continually reminded that BOPIS is now an integral part of the customer’s expectations for many retailers.

Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Merchant Director
10 months 17 days ago

From what I have seen, BOPIS is stil growing. If anything, this will give those retailers that went into it haphazardly incentive to give it the correct amount of space and staff to operate it properly.

Brandon Rael

The great digital acceleration spurred by the pandemic’s anxieties and uncertainties led to an increased usage of BOPIS and curbside pickup services. However we should expect that, as the pandemic peaks and eventually stabilizes, customers will be going back to their old shopping habits. Those who have shifted to the BOPIS, curbside, and home delivery models will not return to the traditional in-store shopping journey.

BOPIS represents a flexible, convenient, and cost-effective way for retailers to mitigate the last mile. We should not expect BOPIS to diminish significantly as customers navigate our changing normal. Customers ultimately want choice, and leveraging BOPIS and other customer-first strategies is a winning formula for revenue growth.

Gene Detroyer

BOPIS, online and delivery were all accelerated by the pandemic. However the trend started prior to COVID-19. As I have written many times, it is all about convenience. The convenience people experience is not going to be traded off for going into the store.

Jennifer Bartashus

Demand for BOPIS is like a pendulum – it has swung back to in-store shopping as there was a lot of pent-up demand to browse in person. Lots of things can swing the pendulum back – COVID-19 variants, weather events, consumer demand, etc. – but overall the use level will remain higher than historic levels. Improving the pickup experience – either by reducing wait time and narrowing or eliminating pickup time slots is important. Retailers need an infrastructure that can flex in response to demand. BOPIS is still more profitable than delivery for most retailers, so it may be worth keeping a steady stream of incentives or advertising to guide customers who don’t want to go into a store to the more profitable alternative.

Dave Bruno

I was a big fan of BOPIS before the pandemic, I became an even bigger fan (especially of curbside pickup) during the pandemic, and I will remain a big fan after the pandemic. For customers, it eliminates shipping costs and rewards us with instant gratification, not to mention minimizing time spent in the store during the pandemic. For retailers who have optimized store fulfillment, it reduces overall costs and gives them a chance to interact, engage and potentially earn add-on sales when customers arrive to pick up their orders. It’s a win-win scenario and, in my experience, those scenarios usually find a way of sticking around.

Rich Kizer

I actually believe there would be screams from some customers at the suggestion that BOPIS was being discontinued in a store. When a retailer delivers an easier and/or more pleasant process or way of doing business with the customer, and then tries to take it away, they can generate some bad feelings. Want to get rid of it? Take it very slowly and expect some agitation.

Dion Kenney
10 months 17 days ago

The COVID-driven dimension of BOPIS may wax and wane with the rise and fall of pandemic numbers. But the long-term baseline use of BOPIS is likely to increase as more retailers become more proficient at making their “BUY ONLINE” capability better/easier/faster and consumers incorporate “pick it up on the way home” into their normal daily behavior and expectations.

Suresh Chaganti

BOPIS remains one of the essential tools in the toolbox, particularly for those who have already implemented it. But the innovation should continue to drive the cross-sell. That effort is missing in nearly every retailer.

In most places the BOPIS desk functions as a locker which is fully automated, missing the revenue opportunities. Instead, retailers could offer three or four add-on products right at the time of pickup, depending on the product that the customer is picking up.

Retailers are depending on customers to wander around the aisles and make additional purchases, which is a lost opportunity.

Mark Heckman

I do not believe BOPIS as it is currently is offered is a sustainable long-term proposition for either the consumer or the retailer. Despite many retailers eliminating cashiers in favor of self-checkout, retailers and their fragile P&Ls cannot be thrilled with paying people to clog the aisles of their traditional brick-and-mortar stores with long, bulky carts as they pick their BOPIS orders. For the shopper, the survey cited captures several areas where there is a disconnect for them. Anecdotally, my only two personal experiences with this process contained multiple stockouts and mis-picks. As we emerge (someday) from the pandemic, if BOPIS is to remain a viable option — it will need to be re-thought both logistically and technologically.

DeAnn Campbell
With grocery, customers are far more interested in convenience, which is why this study skewed toward the preference for delivery. For most other retail sectors the data reveals the opposite, with over 60 percent of customers even deciding where to shop online based on who offers in store pickup. With the significant erosion of profits created by the cost of home delivery, BOPIS is a critical tool for retailers, but the challenge is that most BOPIS services are poorly executed with weak customer service. Too often it’s hard to find where to pick up, long queues behind shoppers bringing returns, confused staff and even items that are out of stock despite notification that they should be ready for pick-up. As the fear of COVID-19 begins to settle into a managed awareness, retailers desperately need to address the profit margin crunch and weak brand loyalty of e-commerce. BOPIS is one of the best ways to keep the customer engaged in activities that not only improve profits, but also improve customer experience, loyalty, basket size and long… Read more »
Gary Sankary
Based on my observations at my local Target, where I almost only shop using BOPIS, the demand seems to have gotten stronger, especially during the holidays. In November they expanded the number of BOPIS stalls from five to 20. When I’m there there are almost always 10-12 cars in slots waiting to get orders. I think for retailers who have figured out how to do BOPIS right, this will continue to be a strong channel for them. Target and Best Buy certainly come to mind. For retailers who have struggled, or put hurdles in front of their customers trying to use the service, I suspect they will back-peddle from this. It’s expensive and they make difficult for their teams to execute. They are passing on a competitive advantage in my opinion. In my mind, doing this right means not forcing the customer to sign up for a slot 24 to 72 hours after they pay. It also means reasonable wait times and prompt services. Example in two years I’ve only had to wait longer than… Read more »