What will it take to transform BOPIS ops from just okay to great?

Photo: Target
Feb 20, 2019

WayfinD staff

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.

A WD Partners study from almost six years ago found BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) to be the number one ranked technology consumers wanted (86 percent put it in the top two boxes).

Fast forward four years: we found the appeal for BOPIS went down 27 percent to only 59 percent (top two box score), and yet usage had gone up 17 percent. Essentially consumers still wanted BOPIS and were using it, but their satisfaction with it was tanking.

Retailers just weren’t getting it. They were making customers come into the store to pick-up their orders. Customers had to stand in lines with people returning items, getting price adjustments, etc. No standard place for BOPIS within their stores existed so it was a mystery every time you walked in. And they weren’t getting orders right.

So, here we are in 2019. And it’s gotten better. Seventy percent of online shoppers have used BOPIS and 55 percent of the top U.S. retailers are now offering BOPIS (compared to 44 percent in 2016). Yet a huge opportunity exists to make it even better.

Have you ever pulled into a store parking lot only to see the best parking spots designated for BOPIS — and not a single car in one of those spots? Or maybe there’s only one measly BOPIS marked spot and it happens to be buried in middle of the lot? Or one of our favorites is pulling into a BOPIS spot only to be directed to call a number to tell them you’re there and then having to wait an additional 10+ minutes for them to bring your order.

First world problems, right? But the point is, most BOPIS solutions are not ready to scale to 40 percent of transactions as predicted for coming years. More robust deployments that consider store operations, staffing logistics and product inventory systems are required. Additionally, new technology from Google-owned Waze allows customers to seamlessly communicate with retailers their location and anticipated pick-up time, allowing for a frictionless experience across the board.

There’s room to grow. Get better. Be smarter. Can you imagine what BOPIS looks like in 2025?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What continue to be major pain points for BOPIS customers and how do you expect retailers to resolve them? Which emerging technologies will smooth BOPIS execution?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Store operations, marketing, logistics, merchandising, and inventory must all be aligned for a seamless BOPIS transaction."
"...retailers need to staff appropriately for the volume of collections that are taking place, to expect stores to absorb this additional workload is unrealistic."
"BOPIS failures can be avoided by keeping track of BOPIS orders and staffing accordingly, as well as taking the time to train employees on how to handle common issues."

Join the Discussion!

30 Comments on "What will it take to transform BOPIS ops from just okay to great?"

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Mark Ryski

There’s a lot that can go wrong from initial order placed to in-store pick-up. Every retailer is unique and so to are the BOPIS issues. Overall, the biggest issue with BOPIS seems to be a lack of clarity/priority for order pick-ups. Having a dedicated BOPIS order pick-up counter is great – not so much if there’s no staff to serve customers who show up to get their order. Retailers need to think about adding dedicated staff resources to adequately process and serve BOPIS customers – not just lump more duties on existing store teams.

Ed Rosenbaum

I agree Mark. Dedicated staff is important to the success of the program. Having current staff stop to pull orders can lead to the customer not getting the order correctly, not getting the brand of the product requested and more. This leads to dissatisfaction and failure. Start the program correctly from the beginning and major changes or tweaks will not be needed later. If not, say goodbye to the customer.

Sterling Hawkins

It does take some dedication to do this right. One poorly executed order (long wait times, OOS, etc.) and that could be the last time a customer engages. Technology can help to make sure only availability inventory is shown, wait times are short and service is good, but it first starts with the retailer and store management committing to delivering a strong program.

Dave Nixon

This is an easy one to identify but a difficult one to solve.
INVENTORY, specifically around item substitution or out-of-stocks.
When you layer an e-commerce model on top of an already outdated physical store inventory infrastructure where “pickers’ are competing for the same product as shoppers, you’re going to have collisions and reduced customer experience.

Retailers HAVE to get their inventory management and forecasting under control but that’s not as easy as it sounds without massive investments in operational infrastructure. Until then, someone is making brand, product and price decisions for me when they are out of stock of items I have ordered, and as finicky as we are as consumers, that’s going to be tough to get right every time.

James Tenser

I would have liked this comment twice if I could, Dave. Store-level, real-time inventory visibility is the number one issue for click & carry retailing. Connectivity to the digital store is essential. Otherwise BOPIS is essentially “click & hope.”

In FMCG I have heard anecdotally of item OOS/substitution rates has high as 25%. The worst offenders in this regard are third-party services whose online catalogs are not linked with store-level realities.

There are many other challenges, of course. There is an emerging art to “staging” orders in retail stores for customer pickup. (Most difficult for grocers due to temperature control issues.)

Bob Amster

In the first place, there is a dramatic difference between a retailer launching BOPIS capability simply because it’s the flavor of the month, and a retailer preparing the environment, the associates, the supply chain, and having the inventory accuracy to actually pull off BOPIS successfully. There are the components of a successful BOPIS offering. Reserved car spaces may out on the outer fringe of customer service, but these others are critical.

Dr. Stephen Needel

Retailers will end up walking away from BOPIS, or at least BOPIS where you don’t have to come into the store. It’s never been clear that you actually make any money offering this and if the experiences are dissatisfying, maybe the idea is to avoid it altogether. It’s not like shoppers are demanding this.

Ralph Jacobson

Remember, just because the majority of online shoppers use BOPIS that doesn’t mean that they have become a majority of shoppers in physical stores. Most traditional retailers are still catering to the vast majority of their physical store shoppers who do not purchase online before entering the store. That’s primarily why the BOPIS parking spaces are empty.

All that said, however, BOPIS continues to increase in frequency and will become a more significant portion of the physical shopping experience in the next few years. As that happens, retailers will need to invest in technologies that smooth out this still relatively new store-level process. Better supply chain visibility leveraging blockchain technologies, store-level staffing and training and real-time shopper personalization tools are helping create a more seamless process.

David Weinand

There has certainly been a lot of growing pains as it relates to BOPIS. Most retailers have figured out to move the pick up from the back of the store to the front (duh) and retailers like Walmart seem to be making a ton of progress automating the process with their towers. Of course, as a retailer, there’s a fine line between making BOPIS totally seamless and using the opportunity of having the customer in-store for cross-sell/upsell. On the seamless front, geofencing so personnel can know when customer in the vicinity can help speed the process.

Charles Dimov

The biggest pain point is the lack of retailers with BOPIS. I know. I actually look for opportunities to click and collect. While the research above finds that 55 percent of the biggest retailers offer BOPIS (still a shortfall), the Omni-2000 research looked at 2000+ retail chains (10 stores and up), and found that in the U.S. only 27.5 percent of these chains offer the service. Yet more and more consumers want it. There is a huge gap in the market. The early movers (right now the largest retailers) are filling this gap.

For retailers, the most important technology for BOPIS is the Distributed Order Management system (DOM/OMS). Consumers don’t see it, but it makes the whole system work seamlessly. Not sure that enough retailers have made the right investments, yet. But that is changing fast.

Art Suriano
Smart retailers see that BOPIS is a tremendous opportunity to bring customers into their stores. However, they need to focus on convenience. The customer went online to buy a product. They may have done so because it wasn’t available in the store, but they want it as soon as possible, so they are willing to drive to the store to pick it up. Now the retailer has a chance for a significant customer service “home run” as long as the experience for the customer coming to the store is easy and pleasurable. So retailers; set up an easy-to-find BOPIS counter in your store. Make sure you have enough associates at the BOPIS counter who can handle those customers waiting quickly. Most importantly, give those customers incentives while they’re in the store to purchase something with a discount for using the BOPIS service. Be smart and take every opportunity to turn those BOPIS customers into shoppers. Don’t pressure them if they’re not interested because they may very well be the next time. So make sure the… Read more »
Dave Bruno

The vast opportunities inherent in BOPIS transactions are matched only by the vast challenges inherent in BOPIS transactions. Store operations, marketing, logistics, merchandising, and inventory must all be aligned for a seamless BOPIS transaction. Is it any wonder that the industry is struggling to get everything right every time? The good news is most retailers are investing in the necessary process and technology changes to make BOPIS successful. The better news is that technology will continue to help.

Brandon Rael

The real winning proposition for BOPIS is to attract your customers to your retail locations. However, fundamentally, retailers are struggling with the operational side of making BOPIS work. While it’s all about efficiencies, and getting your customer to come to the store, it’s imperative to have a clear and transparent process in place to help avoid friction and confusion.

Additionally, in the right retail environments, the true magic of BOPIS will come to life when customers engage with educated and empowered sales associates. Those associates will have the tools and solutions in place to know these customers, and drive them to buy incremental products, more full price items and at higher margins.

BOPIS is a long-term investment as there is a culture change associated with it. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint.

Georganne Bender

For some retailers BOPIS sounds like a good idea on paper, but it falls apart at store level. Retailers need to add services to stay competitive, but it’s crazy to ask associates to pick and package BOPIS orders when the sales floor is busy and already understaffed. There should be BOPIS-trained associates who pick the correct items, and a dedicated area with quick checkout that’s convenient for the customer, not the retailer.

Space is an issue. Do you take valuable sales space off of the floor or hide it at the back of the store in an out of the way – and inconvenient – place? Do you make BOPIS customers stand in the regular checkout queue or allow them to jump the line? Either way you risk alienating shoppers.

Adding BOPIS can’t be a me-too decision; there are too many things that can disrupt the store and shopper satisfaction to be considered.

James Ray

You can say that again! “… it’s crazy to ask associates to pick and package BOPIS orders when the sales floor is busy and already understaffed.”

Georganne Bender

It’s also crazy that the people leading these companies are unaware of what’s really happening on their own sales floors, right?

Gene Detroyer

Here is the question for the retailers: what are you thinking?
“BOPIS, that is great, we can make the customer come into the store and maybe buy some more stuff.” or “BOPIS, we can make it easy for the customer to pick up their stuff and never get out of their car. They will end up buying more regularly from us.”

Like everything else in retail, it has to be about the customer. BOPIS is all about convenience.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
Mohamed Amer, PhD
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
3 years 5 months ago
Instead of thinking of technology as the silver bullet, or focusing on a set of tactical actions, let me turn the tables and look at the organization. We have witnessed many changes in the past few years in retail and CPG in technology, competitive landscape, and the shopper behavior. The consumer is looking for convenience, value, and gratification on their own terms in every interaction they have with the store and brand. On the other side, the structural changes to a retail organization have been slow to respond to the external market demands. The organizational silos and pyramids flourish like never before, yet their influence on the customer cut across boundaries and does the flow of data. The next decade will see the complete recast of the traditional merchants, buyers, marketers, operations, finance, and supply chain fiefdoms and instead be focused on horizontal processes that create higher value and respond with greater agility and speed. In the main, what we have today is the layering of new processes on top of or in parallel with… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann

While shopper expectations continue to drive BOPIS (click-and-collect, and I would include QSR drive-thru) initiatives, I would remind retailers of the tremendous value of those shoppers that actually cross your threshold and actually visit your store to shop. It seems that these initiatives, while designed to enhance the shopping experience, often penalize the shoppers that are actually in your store! Those shoppers and customers are often asked to wait while drive-thru and BOPIS are served first. It seems to me that those people that walk into your store should be rewarded for their welcome presence.

Cate Trotter
I think too often BOPIS is seen as an easy add-on that retailers offer without much thought into the practicalities. There always seems to be little in the way of joined up thinking — your confirmation email may have an ID number on it, but in the case of more than one retailer I still find myself queuing up at the checkout and being asked to scribble down my name on a piece of receipt paper before the assistant rifles through a cupboard of packages for 10 minutes looking for my order. Whereas other retailers who have put in the work can scan a code with a mobile device, identify and retrieve the package in moments – from the shop floor. It’s one of those occasions where I think tech can really help (see also Walmart and Zara’s auto-retrieval systems) but only if the retailer has put the work in behind the scenes as well. Effective BOPIS requires excellent inventory management, logistics and package tracking and staff education as a bare minimum. You should be… Read more »
Ken Morris
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
3 years 5 months ago
In-store execution and inventory accuracy are two of the biggest pain points for BOPIS. Retailers have made a lot of progress in training staff on fulfilling BOPIS orders and the larger chains have designated areas and staff for managing BOPIS orders. However, in most cases, it is far from convenient or frictionless. Smaller stores have even greater challenges as limited staffs must manage BOPIS on top of everything else they do – like service in-store shoppers. The other big issue is accurate real-time inventory. Many retailers don’t have true, real-time inventory and they must use safety stock calculations for BOPIS orders. Therefore, they turn away online shoppers when they actually have one or more items in the store, but can’t promise it to the customer. Safety stock is an expensive problem! Some key technologies that will help improve the effectiveness of BOPIS are unified commerce platforms (enable real-time enterprise inventory visibility), cloud based POS and a network that harmonizes the enterprise. Another big problem as mentioned in the article above is pick-up. New technologies are… Read more »
Michael La Kier

Initial BOPIS efforts were done to make things easier for the retailer and were almost done begrudgingly. For example, many Walmarts had the in-store pickup located at the back of the store with customer service and their backroom. This meant shoppers had to not only come into the store, but also trudge all the way through the store. Fast forward to today with dedicated lanes and pick up points. Focusing on ease and convenience will be key to make BOPIS work. Integrating with voice and mobile apps will help make this easier.

James Ray
Taken to the ridiculous extreme, customer-friendly BOPIS will evolve to being a parking space(s) outside the Amazon distribution center(s) that are located around every major metropolitan (high population density) area. Customer buys online, drives to designated location, uses phone app to activate direct-to-car delivery thereby eliminating the delay and cost of waiting on third-party logistics. When Amazon’s much talked about drones finally work, customers will no longer even drive to the DC, but instead await “dronemail” delivery of packages. IMHO retailers who have decided the “pick up in store” part of BOPIS is key to their solution have already decided to ignore what customers want and instead are choosing what they think is best for themselves. In the long run this is a fool’s strategy, but it may be necessary to survive another day with a mediocre solution until a real competitive answer is available. As a customer population of one, I feel the biggest problems with BOPIS are the unfulfilled customer expectations. 1.) I order online, go inside the store, wait in the queue… Read more »
Rich Kizer

The past six months I have made a mission of standing and watching, from inside the store the BOPUIS customer experience. The retailers I experienced have more thinking to do. Many times it seemed that customers had to stand in line and at times, wait over five minutes. Agitation was on their face. There was never enough staff evident. Makes me wonder how the expectation of customer service and add-on sales, which is viewed as a service to the customer, can possibly occur. Seems like I saw a lot of customers who were now NOT going to walk into the store.

Jasmine Glasheen

BOPIS only makes things more efficient when there are enough, well-trained employees on hand to handle the extra workload. All too often I see retailers trying to dip their toes in with BOPIS and then busy customers end up in the above “waiting an extra 10+ minutes” scenario.

BOPIS failures can be avoided by keeping track of BOPIS orders and staffing accordingly, as well as taking the time to train employees on how to handle common issues (like parking and wait times). Of course, this all starts with retailers communicating openly with their employees about the successes/challenges of the program as it scales.

Andrew Blatherwick
BOPIS, or as we call it “Click and Collect,” has been in Europe longer than in the US, but that is not to say that retailers are any better at it or customer satisfaction is any higher. There have been so many bad stories as retailers have struggled to get to grips with it. Waitrose