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Why the Growth in BOPIS Will Continue to Accelerate (and How to Make the Shift Now)

Reasons why perfecting your buy-online-purchase-in-store process now can have both short- and long-term benefits, along with some suggestions for making a smooth transition.

As businesses pivot to remain open, some are discovering new channels that can bring new opportunities. While right now our routines are being disrupted out of necessity, some of our adapted behaviors are bound to stick as people realize that many of these new ways of working and shopping better meet our needs for convenience and speed. One that is likely to accelerate in popularity is “buy online, pick up in-store,” also known as BOPIS.

For retailers, BOPIS represents a hybrid channel that can fill the gap between exclusively shopping in-store and ordering online for delivery. With BOPIS, consumers order an item online and then opt to pick it up at the physical store location at their convenience. This offers a way for consumers to have more control over their shopping experience because they can know for certain an item is available without visiting the store, yet not have to wait for it to be delivered.

There had already been a significant shift to this shopping channel; BOPIS revenue was up an average of 35% during the 2019 holiday season, and shows no signs of slowing down in 2020.

As restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers try different ways to reach customers and keep team members employed, many are adding BOPIS to their services. Here are some reasons why perfecting your BOPIS process now can have both short- and long-term benefits, along with some suggestions for making a smooth transition.

Customers love BOPIS

Customers realize that BOPIS offers two key benefits when compared with delivery (or in-person shopping when available):

  • Faster service: According to a 2016 survey from JDA Software, 33% of customers opt for BOPIS to get their items sooner. Another 18% use the service to see faster refunds or exchanges. Customers also save time when you offer them the option of making their payment before arriving onsite.
  • Convenience: We’ve all experienced the frustration of ordering something only to find out that it’s actually out of stock or delivery will be delayed. Or we’ve headed to the store with a specific item in mind and see that it’s sold out or unavailable, thus making it a wasted trip. With BOPIS, customers are assured the item they want will be ready right when they need it. And if they’re on a tight timeline, they don’t have to spend time browsing the aisles.

Benefits for your business

While BOPIS might be one of your only available channels today, it’s likely one you’ll want to continue even when in-person shopping resumes. You’ll appreciate:

  • The opportunity to upsell/make additional sales: When your items are delivered to customers, you don’t have the chance to entice them with supplemental offerings, but one study found that most shoppers — 85%, in fact — have made additional purchases while picking up their items in the store.
  • More control of your brand experience: When you ship items, you are at the mercy of the shipping company to deliver the items on time and intact. The same can go for food delivery, which sometimes doesn’t meet customers’ standards for timeliness or food quality due to in-transit factors outside of your control.
  • Ability to personalize services: When you know that a frequent shopper is scheduled to make a pickup, you can greet them by name, surprise them with an extra perk as appreciation for their loyalty, or suggest new items you have in stock that are similar to those they’ve bought in the past.

How to create a satisfying BOPIS experience

After adding a BOPIS option to your website, you’ll want to create a seamless process for your customers. Here are five common customer complaints and how to solve them.

Problem: Customers don’t know if the order was placed or when it will be ready.
Solution: Send a confirmation email with details on the order, a receipt if they have paid through your online store, contact information in case they have questions, and an accurate estimate of when their order will be ready for pickup. Specify where to go, if they need to provide order information (e.g., name, order number, etc.), and anything else that makes it easy for customers to quickly pick up their order.

Problem: Employees aren’t prepared to handle BOPIS orders.
Solution: Have an employee (or more as needed) dedicated to BOPIS. These team members should be ready to retrieve and pack items once they’re ordered, and then deliver them to your counter for in-store pickup, or to a waiting car for curbside pickup. In the future, as customers return to stores, make sure you maintain this dedicated team so that BOPIS customers don’t have to wait in the same line as in-store shoppers to retrieve their order.

Problem: Customers don’t know how to retrieve their purchase once they arrive.
Solution: Create a process and clearly communicate the logistics. After they order, let them know:

  • How to find your store: Give specific directions, including the location of your entrance (on the street, in a shopping center, etc.).
  • Where to park: If you share a parking lot or street parking with other businesses, give them details on the most convenient access. Let them know if you have dedicated parking spots for BOPIS.
  • How the pickup will happen: Will an employee bring their purchase out, or does the customer need to pick it up inside? Once they enter the store, what counter should they go to? It will be particularly important to have a clear process and signage as in-person shopping resumes.
  • How to pay: Ideally they will pay for the purchase online before they arrive. Otherwise, let them know that you will bring a mobile card reader to them (and offer touch-free options) to expedite service.

Problem: Customers arrive at the store only to find out something they’ve ordered isn’t available.
Solution: If your payment and inventory systems are integrated, you can know conclusively whether an item is in stock at the moment a customer orders it. However, if for any reason an item ends up being unavailable, make sure to let them know immediately. While you can offer a substitution, you want to be sure they’re not making a fruitless trip that can lead to disappointment.

Problem: Customers don’t know you offer BOPIS.
Solution: Promote your BOPIS offering everywhere — from your website’s home page to your social media accounts, and even with a banner or window sign on your physical store. Consider offering a discount to encourage a first-time trial.

The bottom line is that customers might be patient with you now as everyone adapts to new ways of shopping, but the smoother your BOPIS offering, the more likely they are to use it going forward.

Create a BOPIS process that can continue

As customers discover the benefits of BOPIS as part of their shopping journey, brands that develop a great customer experience can set the stage to attract customers now and retain them in the long run.

That’s especially true in light of the fact that we don’t know when existing restrictions will be lifted, or, for that matter, when or if old shopping habits will resume; in fact, many predictions point to a hesitancy among consumers to return to their previous ways of shopping. In that case, it’s likely that shoppers will embrace the speed and convenience BOPIS offers and adopt it as their own “new normal.”

Making the effort to think through your store’s BOPIS processes and troubleshoot issues now can set you up for both short- and long-term success.