The Impact of Buying Online and Picking Up in Store

It’s a shopping concept you’re likely familiar with: buying online and picking up in store — otherwise known as BOPIS. You can purchase most goods this way, including art supplies, groceries, hardware tools, personal hygiene products, pet food, clothing, and a whole lot more. Popular stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Apple, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target all offer this increasingly popular service.

Picking

BOPIS has grown steadily over the past few years — but it has exploded within the last month due to COVID-19 and the in-person shopping restrictions affecting essential and non-essential businesses.

Prior to COVID-19’s effects on retail and buying habits, almost 70% of U.S. consumers used BOPIS, and it’s expected that about 90% of brick-and-mortar retailers will offer BOPIS by 2021. But that percentage could likely change as retailers and consumers adjust to these unique shopping circumstances.

5 Areas Retailers Should Focus on When It Comes to BOPIS

1.     Convenience vs. Inconvenience

Convenience is likely the number one reason consumers are opting to buy online and pick up in store. They can shop easily and efficiently from their phones, computers, or devices without the hassle of browsing through a store’s merchandise in person and waiting in the checkout line. But is this really convenient for everyone? What about the customers who are still choosing to stop in-store?

Online shopping is more often about a quick, efficient transaction. In-store shopping has become about the experience — and there are still plenty of customers who prefer the in-person shopping experience over a virtual one. If a store is depleting its inventory on the shelves to serve its virtual customers, customers who are browsing the aisles may find less of a selection.

Conversely, an online shopper may see an item in stock — only to order it and receive a notification indicating otherwise. At the end of the day, what may be a convenience for one customer may result in an inconvenience for another.

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2.     Order Fulfillment

What are the processes that stores use to fulfill orders so they can be ready in time for customers? In some cases, products need to be shipped to a store from a warehouse. In others, employees will collect items from around the store with a large cart that contains separate bins for different orders.

Grocery chains and restaurants often require consumers to set a specific pickup time, and some even offer real-time communication as an order is being fulfilled. Wegmans, for example, is one of many grocery stores currently offering curbside pickup or delivery. The employee fills the order around the store and can text/communicate with the customer in real time if a product is out of stock to see if the customer would like it replaced with another item.

Other retailers, such as Target, promise that if an item is in stock, the customer can pick it up within a specific time frame (usually 2 or 4 hours after placing the order). In most cases, customers receive either a text message or email notification when the order is ready. Some stores work with third-party vendors who hire employees to fill BOPIS orders.

3.     Inventory Management

As mentioned, a store’s out of stock condition can provide a negative customer experience for those who are still shopping in person. Retailers need to think about their “silos” of inventory. Do they have products specifically for online purchases? Are other products slated only for store shelves? In many cases, stores are using their in-story inventory to fulfill online orders. Retailers need to think about how to bring those silos of inventory together to provide the best service to customers.

Other questions retailers need consider include: Do they tend to stock more in store? What are the retail purchase trends? Do they have enough space? In most cases, retail stores are not warehouses, which has led to the prevalence of “dark stores” — physical spaces that retailers rent where consumers can pick up items purchased online.

COVID-19 has forced a lot of essential retailers who are still physically open to designate parts of their store, or parking lot, to online order pickup due to increased curbside sales.

Also, retailers need to consider how quickly purchases (whether online or in-store) are reflected in product availability. With such high demand for essential products in the wake of COVID-19, retailers can’t keep certain products in stock and must think about how to balance online versus in-store availability when they do secure those items. This can prove even more challenging when third-party vendors, such as Instacart, are involved.

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4.     Processing Payment

It’s important that retailers consider whether their point of sale (POS) system aligns and integrates with their eCommerce site. Also, if they do not employ a mobile POS, how are they dealing with payment? Retailers need to ensure that their method is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant and that a customer’s personal information and credit card numbers are safe and secure.

5.     The Customer Experience

At the end of the day, retailers are aiming for high customer satisfaction — whether they’ve been offering BOPIS services for years or are just pivoting due to the current circumstances.

How important is a positive customer experience? About 50% of loyal customers have left a company for a competitor who was able to stay more relevant and better satisfy their needs. In addition, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service.

Not only do consumers want a great product, but they also want a great experience, and that includes processing their order and accepting payment.