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What is BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) and how can retailers use it to serve more customers?

If there’s one thing that’s driving the customer experience, it’s convenience.

A recent study from the National Retail Foundation found an impressive 83% of shoppers say convenience while shopping is more important today than five years ago. 97% of respondents admit they’ve backed out of a purchase because it was inconvenient to them.

This is where BOPIS, or “buy online, pickup in store,” plays a significant role. It allows customers to place an order online and then pick it up at a nearby retail location, rather than waiting for it to be shipped.

It was a growing trend among consumers even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But, since more and more shoppers have been avoiding crowds, this offering has experienced a major boost. BOPIS saw a 500% increase at the peak of COVID when compared with the same period in 2019.

How does BOPIS work?

You might also hear BOPIS referred to as “click and collect .” Here’s the typical process: A customer finds products they want to purchase online, whether it’s through a company’s website or app. The customer goes through the online checkout, enters their payment information, and selects “pick up” as their delivery option. Using their address or their device’s location services, they choose a store location near them and then collect their purchase from their designated pickup spot at a local store.

BOPIS works best for businesses with both an eCommerce presence and at least one brick-and-mortar storefront where customers can retrieve their purchases.

Customers get to avoid shipping costs, and they sometimes get the item that same day rather than waiting for it to arrive on their doorstep.

BOPIS is increasingly popular among consumers. A whopping 47% of Home Depot purchases in 2018 were BOPIS—a number that has likely only increased since. Plus, half of customers admit that they’ve decided where to buy from online based on whether or not they had the availability to pick up their items in-store.

What are the benefits of BOPIS?

BOPIS offers a number of perks for customers, but what about for businesses? Is this option an added hassle for them?

Not necessarily. This shopping strategy has advantages on both sides of the equation, including the following.

1. Improved customer experience

We’ve already briefly touched on the added convenience that BOPIS offers. But, beyond a streamlined online shopping and pickup process, the BOPIS experience is a positive one because it:

  • Provides more immediate gratification: Items are typically available for pickup at physical stores within a day or two, which is significantly less time than standard shipping options.
  • Reduces customer cost: Shipping items to a retailer’s brick and mortar stores is generally free for consumers. Shipping costs and other extra fees are reasons for online shopping cart abandonment, and a lower price tag can motivate shoppers to complete their purchases.
  • Decreased frustration: Especially during the holiday season when stores can be swamped, BOPIS customers can avoid lines and the disappointment of realizing the item they wanted isn’t actually in stock. Additionally, any issues with purchases can be addressed at the point of collection, since the customer is already there.

The result? A shopping experience that exceeds customer expectations.

2. Self-service options

Many brick and mortar retailers who use a BOPIS model allow customers to pick up their items without interacting with employees. Some stores are installing pickup lockers in their physical stores.

Customers receive a code with a locker number and a code to unlock it, so they can retrieve their items without the help of a store associate.

This option has become particularly appealing during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, research shows that this option is likely here to stay. McKinsey research found that 56% of consumers intend to keep using BOPIS options even after the pandemic.

3. Better security

We like to think that deliveries are reliable, yet 15% of online shopping deliveries never actually make it to their final destination in major cities.

This is another one of the key benefits of BOPIS: businesses and consumers have greater control over purchases and packages.

The customer doesn’t have to worry about tracking a shipment or their package being lost or stolen. And, retailers are able to reduce refunds and save on replacement costs for lost items.

Why retailers should start offering BOPIS

Still not convinced that BOPIS is worth implementing? Here are a few other advantages that businesses and retailers can experience:

  • Increased revenue: Even though customers have already placed an online order, they often make additional purchases in real-time once they’re in the store. One survey found that 85% of shoppers said they have made additional in-store purchases while visiting stores to pick up what they ordered online.
  • Lower shipping costs: Unlike shipping individual items to customers, delivery to stores is typically done in bulk and is significantly cheaper.
  • Efficient order management: Through BOPIS, a retailer can use a centralized fulfillment and distribution center. That means they have one order management system pulling data for both in-store and online purchases. BOPIS orders are then fulfilled by local stores or distribution centers—whichever is speedier.

How can your business offer BOPIS to customers?

You’ve decided you want to offer BOPIS. But, how do you make it happen? There are a few things you’ll need in place:

  • Ecommerce presence: Most brands that offer BOPIS consider themselves to be just as much online retailers as they are brick and mortar, and many actually have a larger online presence than in-store. It’s easier to add and remove products from a website than store shelves.
  • Pickup locations: Customers will need a place to collect their purchased items. If you don’t have numerous retail locations but want to give customers options, you can work with local and national partners to establish other pickup locations. Offer a zip-code based search option on your website so online shoppers can easily find a location that works best for them.
  • Real-time inventory management: For BOPIS to work well, you need to be able to manage inventory in real-time so that customers can see if an item is in stock, out of stock, or has low availability. This should change depending on what pickup location they’re looking at.
  • In-store guidance and signage: The benefit of convenience disappears if customers need to wait in long lines or find a store associate to collect their purchase. Use signage to show customers exactly where to pick up orders and keep the process as simple, streamlined, and quick as possible.
  • Rules and policies: When rolling out any new offering, you need clarity about your policies so your employees know how to handle different scenarios. What happens if a customer picks up the wrong item? Will you ship items between store locations? How long do customers have to retrieve their purchases? Make sure your employees and your customers are clear on the rules.

BOPIS trends in retail

BOPIS isn’t a consumer whim or a passing fad. In fact, most retail trends indicate that this online shopping and delivery option is here to stay:

  • 86% of retailers think that “click and collect” will become the default delivery method, and 91% agree that more and more retailers will continue to turn stores into fulfillment centers.
  • 93% of retailers say they’ll have BOPIS services at their businesses by the year 2023.
  • 63% of consumers say they want curbside pickup, which has seen a huge increase as a result of the pandemic.
  • Over 50% of consumers say they use BOPIS, and 67% admit that they add additional items to their carts when BOPIS is available.

Needless to say, shoppers want the flexibility and convenience of shopping online but the immediacy and control of picking up their items in store.

BOPIS has shifted from nice to have to must-have for retail

Consumers today require a certain level of convenience from retailers. That has led to the rise of a variety of shopping options, including BOPIS (which stands for buy online pickup in store).

These shopping experiences are here to stay, which means retailers will need to keep up with these demands or risk losing out on business.

In the case of BOPIS, there’s a benefit for both the consumer and retailer. Customers have more ways to shop, while retailers can save on shipping costs and even get more foot traffic to their brick and mortar locations.


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