Is the BOPIS experience getting any better?

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/hapabapa
Dec 13, 2021

A new survey finds retailers that are offering buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) services are still struggling to combat rising rates and capacity constraints, along with a new set of operational and logistics demands.

The study from LaserShip found that, in response to those pandemic pressures, 87 percent of retailers have implemented BOPIS and in-store pickup, but the strategy has triggered new concerns, including:

  • Meeting consumer expectations of in-store stock availability, 57 percent;
  • Strained store capacity, 56 percent; 
  • Increased operational and staff challenges, 54 percent.

Additional and similar pressures are being felt by the 85 percent of respondents using ship-from-store.

“In order to implement BOPIS successfully, retailers will need to make investments in inventory management systems to get real-time stocking updates and merge online and in-store inventory tracking,” wrote LaserShip in the study. “Retailers must also communicate clearly with customers across multiple channels on how to best use click and collect in stores to ensure an efficient, seamless pickup experience, while minimizing wait times.”

BOPIS use, including car pickup and lockers, accelerated as consumers and retailers sought out contactless solutions during the pandemic. A survey taken in October from Package Concierge found 64 percent of U.S. shoppers using BOPIS, a nearly 23 percent increase in six months, with 20 percent using it frequently.

Retailers have raved about BOPIS’s ability to eliminate shipping expenses and offer shopper convenience.

A study that came out earlier this year from researchers at Texas A&M and Clemson based on pre-pandemic transaction data found BOPIS boosts in-store traffic as users regularly make unplanned in-store purchases. BOPIS was also found to drive sales of higher-priced items in-store that shoppers are reluctant to purchase online and helps optimize returns.

In the Harvard Business Review, Michael Ketzenberg, a professor of the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, wrote that, given the advantages, retailers should heavily market BOPIS, highlighting the benefits of avoiding delivery fees, instant gratification and in-stock guarantees.

“Because BOPIS is more profitable than other omnichannel services, it gives retailers the opportunity to offer a small discount or other incentives to encourage customers to opt for the BOPIS option, creating a win-win for both the customer and the business,” he said.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What improvements have you seen across the BOPIS process and what still needs work? Should BOPIS be more aggressively marketed and even incentivized at this point?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Dedicated logistics, a complete, transparent inventory management system, and clarity for online shoppers are needed."
"Retailers are clearly increasing their focus here and it is paying off. But there is more to it than just BOPIS – the returns process needs to be as well streamlined..."
"Retailers have added significant technology in order to meet this challenge or opportunity of facilitating buying online and picking up in-store."

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25 Comments on "Is the BOPIS experience getting any better?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

From my store visits and talking to staff, a lot of the “fixes” seem to be temporary – such as expanding space for storage by using parts of the shop floor and opening more parking bays for collection. All that works, to a point, but one of the main issues is the misalignment of stock showing as available online and not actually being available in-store. This leads to a lot of cancelled orders and causes a mass of customer frustration. Unfortunately, other than having buffer stock there is no quick fix without investing.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

To a great extent, BOPIS delivery has come a long way with retailers having now almost two years of the practice through the pandemic. And while these services have gotten better in general and more streamlined over time, there is still work to do to ensure that it remains a positive experience. The effectiveness and importance of BOPIS varies by retailer, and some retailers have it down to a science. These retailers should be promoting their BOPIS service even more aggressively through the remainder of the holiday season.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Unfortunately, practice does not make perfect, and as you mention, there’s still a lot of work to do to make BOPIS successful.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Simply adding dedicated parking spots out front and creating a shiny marketing campaign won’t cut it for BOPIS. Dedicated logistics, a complete, transparent inventory management system, and clarity for online shoppers are needed — and most retailers are not delivering (regardless of where people buy).

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

This. Early on, a lot of retailers cobbled together the process with masking tape and chicken wire and still have not caught up to the demand — leading to out-of-stocks, wrong orders, etc. There is still a lot of work to do for a lot of retailers.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

During the past year, I have noticed an improvement in the efficiency of picking merchandise (shorter lead times) and smoother pick-up processes at store for BOPIS. That said, staffing challenges have made the in-store pick-up process less efficient in some stores. BOPIS has become an expected service for most consumers and it is imperative that retailers make the experience as seamless as possible.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust
Oliver Guy
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
6 months 17 days ago

Retailers are clearly increasing their focus here and it is paying off. But there is more to it than just BOPIS – the returns process needs to be as well streamlined and harmonized.

One of the best examples I have seen is NEXT in the UK. BOPIS is outstanding – honed over 30+ years from their experience with the NEXT Directory catalogue business. Their returns are incredible – simply drop the item in-store and a text message and email is received immediately with details of the refund. In the mission to remove the friction, NEXT are doing a superb job. What is also amazing about NEXT is that their entire approach is supported by technology that is developed in-house using mainframe technology. Phenomenal.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Target has started doubling or tripling its BOPAC parking spaces in some locations, so that alone tells you something about their success with BOPIS.

Real-time inventory management is the key to making BOPIS or BOPAC work. The once a day synchronization of inventory is not enough to compete with Amazon’s realtime, all the time infrastructure. I agree with professor Ketzenberg about the importance of BOPIS as well as the idea of converting customers from delivery to pick up. Another benefit is the percentage of returns, as we are seeing a drop in returns with BOPIS orders vs. online ship to home.

Basically, the omnichannel expectations of shoppers are overwhelming many retailers. Now they have to step up their game on two fronts: meeting increased demand at the stores and increasing realtime inventory accuracy dramatically. The two things to think about here are MFCs and RFID.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
6 months 17 days ago

Many stores have added a BOPIS dimension to their retail operations, and that’s good. However it is often implemented in an ad hoc, afterthought-like manner. Consumer expectations will eventually convince many stores to make BOPIS (and BOPAC) an actual strategic element of store operations, fully integrated with store planning, staffing and operational management. Yes, real-time inventory and effective messaging (probably SMS) will need to be in place. But software is the easy part. The real challenge will be getting strategic planners, operations manager, and staff to overcome the inertial resistance to change and recognize the importance of this dimension of customer service and satisfaction.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

Retailers have added significant technology in order to meet this challenge or opportunity of facilitating buying online and picking up in-store. The challenges today are more soft costs and supply chain related. The soft costs are the additional staffing and training that are required to execute BOPIS, which seem to keep increasing overtime. The uncertainty of inventory due to supply chain challenges compounds problems, creating uncertainty about inventory based on uncertain deliveries. This challenge is difficult to communicate to consumers and will inevitably lead to confusion and a poor customer experience. I would recommend that retailers invest in infrastructure for BOPIS while not aggressively marketing the capability until the supply chain stabilizes.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust
Because BOPIS is now understood as an important part of making e-commerce more profitable, I’m seeing a lot more retailers implementing it in stores — and COVID-19 has only escalated that adoption — but few retailers have yet to implement it well. BOPIS is so much more than just a way to defray shipping costs, it’s the primary connection point between online and offline customer experience and a key driver of increased revenue and repeat business. BOPIS is where you reduce the cost of product returns, where you prompt shoppers to take a browse while they’re in the store, where you give them inspiration and suggestions on other products that complement their purchase. I’m still seeing BOPIS located in the back, or invisible to the shopper, I see products handed over still packed in shipping boxes from the warehouse – how is a shopper going to browse your store if they are carrying a cardboard box? I also see hastily executed efforts that use card tables, or old unmatched fixtures that are completely out of… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

BOPIS has never been a separate shopping experience from the consumer’s point of view. From their perspective, they choose the retailer and shop, regardless of whether it is in-store or online or whether the items are delivered to them or picked up in-store. Many retailers have kept the shopping experiences separate, especially if they added online as a separate activity. To manage costs and understand what and how shoppers purchase, the inventory system needs to be one system. After it is possible to know where products are at all times and the system is updated in real time when products are purchased, then retailers can figure out how to make sure products are in-stock when purchased as well as which products are purchased by which consumers using which shopping method. Then retailers can begin to assess their costs, budget accordingly, and develop attractive pricing strategies. Then effective promotion strategies can be used to reinforce or change purchase behavior.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The consumer’s desire for BOPIS is only going to increase. As more and more shoppers discover the convenience of BOPIS they will choose that rather than conventional in-store shopping. The word for the future is “convenience.” Retailers should be planning on the acceleration of that trend.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

BOPIS considerations have not been getting any better because it was always thought of a temporary solution during the pandemic. The fact is that it should be permanent and investments to make BOPIS run smoothly are critical for retailers to keep up with the evolving needs of the consumer.

BOPIS should not be hindered by aged technology where inventory accuracy is low or by space and staff not being equipped with the right tools. Retailers need to enable BOPIS solutions that give the customer the best experience, offer delight and a chance for retailers to engage with the customer more deeply – to take advantage of a return through a sale, to upsell, and to learn about product choices.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

BOPIS is about convenience and speed. Without the speed, the convenience becomes diminished. Depending on the retailers, there are several options to consider: convenient parking for pick-ups, a “bring-it-to-you” option, curbside pickup, lockers, a special counter to pick up merchandise to avoid typical sales lines, and that’s just the start. Whatever is decided, it must be executed with consistency. The moment the customer isn’t sure what experience they are going to receive, it will destroy confidence in the retailer’s ability to deliver on their promise.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

BOPIS is here to stay, so retailers should focus on order accuracy, substitution issues, more effective pickup scheduling, and most important — training. This represents a new skill set for employees and not enough retailers looking at the human side of the issue from an associate or consumer point of view. This isn’t about scheduling, it’s about service.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Although not fully put to rest, it’s pretty clear most retailers benefit through offering a BOPIS program. What has shown to be necessary for enabling BOPIS are dedicated teams, fast and accurate inventory to enable, usually a dedicated area in the store for both customer and storage and clear instructions to customers on how to use BOPIS. With continued use, expect to see more standardization in processes and BOPIS best practices. Marketed – yes, incentivized – no. Organic growth will go much further if customers don’t expect subsidization. Just as free delivery can be a costly mistake for store owners, incentivizing BOPIS would drive “free” expectations. Customers would always expect lower prices using BOPIS and then be disappointed when it’s not the case.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Unfortunately BOPIS, like returns, relies on the store being less busy so that the shopper mission can be completed quickly. Until more of this process is automated, there’s a lot of room for slowdowns.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

BOPIS is now part of a retailer’s options as it increases in popularity with consumers. Time to switch effort from treating BOPIS as a bolt-on solution and more as part of the customer journey and experience. Better inventory systems, real-time data protocols, and new in-store processes are required. BOPIS is another opportunity for retailing excellence; its potential has barely been tapped.

Bob Hilarides
Guest
6 months 17 days ago

I love the Weis Markets solution for handling BOPAC across temperature states. They dropped in a one-piece drop-in refrigeration/freezer unit at curbside to quickly and efficiently (lower labor!) deliver orders to guests without them having to go into the store or be reaching in cooler doors — without reducing valuable selling space in store. I believe the unit came from ICS. Just one piece to the puzzle but one that can make all the others work better.

David Mascitto
BrainTrust

To get BOPIS to its maximum effectiveness, retailers are going to have to start treating their stores the same way they (hopefully) treat their DCs because in effect, what they are doing is converting stores into mini-DCs or (micro DCs, hence the term micro-fulfillment). That means inventory accuracy, which traditionally hovers around 60-70% for a retail store needs to be much closer to 100% and pick and pack needs to be optimized (more for big box stores than small boutiques) so that SLAs can be met, pickers are not clogging the aisles and store associates are not wasting their time searching for products. The way forward is with a store-as-warehouse type solution, where inventory is received, put away and picked much like it is in a DC. Until we get to this point, retailers offering BOPIS will continue to struggle with out-of-stocks, long lead times for pick-up and reduced productivity.

AB3
Guest

To the consumer, BOPIS is a major and important feature, especially when there are time-sensitive needs that exceed even the timeframe of Amazon, for example. With shipping and logistical challenges accelerating (one retailer shared recently their warehouse shipping lead time is taking one week instead of one day), BOPIS can increase market share.

To me, the best example has been my local Target store. The inventory in my experience shows up well, it can easily process multiple orders, and has been extremely efficient. If you need to run in the store, they can grab your item at customer service when you’re in there shopping for the extra items. It is a pleasant shopping experience that you feel really does save time and energy.

I cannot say I have had the same experience with other stores. In most other stores, the process seems fractured, clunky, and uncertain. Often just shopping the store would be easier. That has to change.

Gwen Morrison
BrainTrust

Retailers are have quite a juggling act on this one. They obviously need to make it as efficient as possible. The key is to assure shoppers that it really will be an “in and out” process. But how do you connect experience? Stores with their own parking lot seem to be winning. Target can keep the message “on brand” with fun signage such as “A Target Run with the Car Running.”

But retailers like Nordstrom have more of a challenge. Stunning holiday merchandising can end up along side industrial metal shelving that looks more like a discount warehouse. There is a long way to go.

Matt Krepsik
Guest
While many shoppers were introduced to click and collect, also known as BOPIS, during the pandemic and have continued using it out of convenience, where the service really stands to improve is in the discovery phase. Think about Amazon, for example. They’re relentless in trying to solve discovery through their recommendations, but even they struggle to highlight the breadth of an endless digital shelf. Consumers were once able to browse thousands of square feet in-store and have now been reduced to mere inches on a smart phone. Brands and retailers alike have to work overtime to actively support discovery and while we have came a long way, we are just in the early innings with more innovative to come as the experience and discovery process evolves. And then from a brand perspective, there’s also the matter of aligning the consumer experience—from in-store to online and everything in between. Yes, marketing and incentivizing should play a part to keep consistent demand for the service, however, retailers should first ensure their click and collect service is as… Read more »
Anil Patel
BrainTrust
Many retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, who started their BOPIS journey early, are acing it. I think one of the most significant changes has been the relocation of the Delivery Desk to the front of the store. Previously, it was strategically placed at the back of the store to make customers stroll through the entire store in order to encourage impulse buying. However, retailers have understood that BOPIS customers value time and convenience, thus the delivery desk has been relocated to the front of the store. BOPIS experience, for the majority of retailers, is still far from perfect. Here is my take on improving the BOPIS strategy: Retailers must ensure that their store staff is on board with the omnichannel vision. One of the things retailers must do to make this happen is update their store incentivizing framework. Otherwise, associates may end up sabotaging a brand’s omnichannel initiatives. In my conversations with many retailers they share that enterprise apps are unusable, and staff onboarding takes an eternity. Store employees become annoyed with… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Dedicated logistics, a complete, transparent inventory management system, and clarity for online shoppers are needed."
"Retailers are clearly increasing their focus here and it is paying off. But there is more to it than just BOPIS – the returns process needs to be as well streamlined..."
"Retailers have added significant technology in order to meet this challenge or opportunity of facilitating buying online and picking up in-store."

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