Since the lockdowns in response to coronavirus began back in March, we’ve seen retail and ecommerce transform and evolve to accommodate our new normal. Demand for meal and food delivery has popularized grocery ecommerce, TikTok has taken off as an acquisition channel, and alternative methods for order fulfillment, like “buy online, pick up in store” have gained even more traction.
Buy online, pick up in store, is also known as “BOPIS.” It describes the practice of offering customers the option to purchase products online, but pick up the order in a physical store themselves. BOPIS allows retailers to blend the online and in-store experience to engage with customers while offering a more convenient way to shop. And customers love the flexibility of this option. In 2019, it was reported that 70% of US consumers have used BOPIS at least once.
At Diff we’ve seen order fulfillment options evolve alongside omnichannel technology. And now that omnichannel is becoming an expectation amongst consumers, it’s time to dive into the value of introducing BOPIS, as well as other payment and checkout methods, to your store.
BOPIS Comes With Many Benefits
When a customer uses BOPIS, they engage with the brand both online and offline. This is one of the greatest benefits of BOPIS because it is an opportunity to optimize a customers’ omnichannel experience.
The customer’s first touchpoint with the brand is through the experience of ecommerce shopping. But, the experience doesn’t end there. When that customer visits the brick and mortar store to pick up their order, the experience of the brand can be enriched. In-store staff can provide another positive touchpoint. And, there’s the opportunity to increase sales if that customer is encouraged to browse while in the physical store.
The opportunity to deliver a truly omnichannel experience isn’t the only benefit of introducing BOPIS to your store. Here are a couple more examples of the value of BOPIS.
- Offers convenience to customers.
With BOPIS available at checkout, customers can do their browsing online rather than in-store. This gives them the convenience of browsing at home, at whatever time is best for their schedule. With the option to pick up in store, they can make the trip to the brick and mortar location whenever is convenient to them, and it will be ready for them.
- Ability to reserve inventory.
When omnichannel is implemented correctly, an order that’s been placed online for pickup reserves the inventory in the physical store. The ability to do this gives customers the confidence that the items they want will not be sold out before they can make the trip to a physical store.
- Orders are fulfilled fast.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to fulfill a BOPIS order. When a customer selects BOPIS, they can pick the order up as soon as the product has been picked. In most cases, this is much speedier than waiting for a product to be picked, packaged, shipped, and delivered.
- It is less expensive.
BOPIS is less expensive both for your business, and your customers. Customers are attracted to the elimination of shipping fees while still being able to shop online. And with BOPIS, your business can reduce the operational costs associated with shipping ecommerce orders.
- Provides peace of mind.
During the pandemic, BOPIS has offered an alternative to in-store shopping. Customers that are nervous to browse in-store can instead browse and buy online. And, it’s faster than ordering online when shopping has been slower than usual because of volume.
The Rise of BOPIS in Ecommerce
Although BOPIS has become essential during the COVID-19 lockdown, it existed long before. It was back in 2016 that Diff Agency first took on a project that involved the groundwork for BOPIS. Our client Ministry of Supply wanted to introduce an omnichannel strategy that would enable their brick and mortar stores to fulfill and ship orders, instead of relying solely on their warehouses.
The approach of their brick and mortar locations as part of their fulfillment model wasn’t quite BOPIS, but it laid the groundwork of an omnichannel strategy that would later evolve into BOPIS. Diff built an omnichannel solution for Ministry of Supply that integrated with their retail POS system to indicate when a local store could fulfill an order rather than the warehouse.
Around 2018, omnichannel marketing began to replace the previously relied on multichannel strategy. It was becoming more clear that consumers expect a seamless experience as they move between online and in-store shopping. Omnichannel marketing recognized that consumers were interacting with brands through various channels. Omnichannel ensure those interactions would provide a consistent experience regardless of the channel.
Omnichannel marketing requires an overhaul of retailers’ systems, like their order management system, POS, and ERP system, to ensure all of the systems are integrated seamlessly. In most cases, this means transitioning to a cloud-based inventory management software so that stock can be easily and accurately tracked across multiple sales channels.
As omnichannel gradually became the norm amongst retailers, the opportunity for BOPIS was officially born. With updated inventory tracking and seamless communication between stores and warehouses, it was now possible to evolve the technology enough that customers could purchase inventory online and pick it up themselves.
Integrating BOPIS Into Your Omnichannel Strategy
We’ve established the value of adding BOPIS as a checkout option for your online shoppers. Now, let’s explore how BOPIS can be integrated seamlessly into your omnichannel strategy. The biggest challenge that retailers face in integrating BOPIS is ensuring that an online store is able to accurately reflect the availability of inventory for in-store pick up. Customers must be able to see exactly what products are available in the store that they wish to pick up from.
When a merchant is selling products both in a physical store and online, it’s up to the in-store POS system to accurately track the availability of inventory in that physical store. Most merchants have an existing retail POS system, but for BOPIS to function smoothly, that retail POS system has to be properly integrated with the merchant’s ecommerce store. Once communication between the two systems is seamless, inventory on the merchant’s website can be kept up to date in real time.
Unlike ecommerce, there’s physical contention for items that are available for BOPIS. One solution that Diff has found for working around this problem is to configure safety stocks. For example, if there are 5 items available in the store, only 2 are made available online for BOPIS. Doing this ensures that in the time it takes for staff in a store to pick an item ordered online, that item isn’t bought by shoppers in the physical store.
The communication aspect of this integration isn’t the only technical aspect that needs to be adjusted for BOPIS to run smoothly. The in-store retail POS needs to be updated to work alongside an order management system that supports the smooth fulfillment of orders. Simply put, an order management system (OMS) manages orders from all sales channels. Centralizing data in one system is critical to giving you a single view of demand, inventory and supply, so you can exceed customer expectations for buying, fulfilling and returning anywhere, anytime.
Adding an integrated OMS system enables merchants to track the progress of BOPIS order fulfillment. The system will alert store personnel of incoming orders. Then, store personnel need to be able to indicate in the system when an order is ready for pickup. By marking an order ready for pick up an email, SMS, or other form of communication to the customer is triggered.
Once this integration is up and running, the remaining challenges are operational. Merchants have to consider how online orders will be fulfilled in the physical store. This means creating an operational strategy that covers everything from how in-store staff will be informed of incoming orders, who will pick the products from the floor, and how quickly BOPIS orders will be marked as ready for pick up. For same-day pick up, merchants must create a streamlined operational approach that ensures incoming orders are picked from the floor immediately.
Fulfilling BOPIS Orders From Warehouse Inventory
The classic BOPIS scenario is that a retailer fulfills online orders using inventory from their brick and mortar store. But, some larger-scale retailers also support BOPIS orders using inventory from their warehouses. In this scenario, BOPIS orders are sent to the warehouse where the product is picked and packed. Then, it is shipped to the store that the customer indicates they’d like to pick the order up from.
Using warehouse inventory to fulfill BOPIS orders is typically the quickest way to to implement BOPIS for a store because it does not require any integrations between the retail POS system and ecommerce platform. Instead, this approach uses the existing supply chain process for the fulfillment of ship-to-home ecommerce orders.
While this approach to BOPIS is simpler because it doesn’t require new integrations, it can reduce the speed of order fulfillment because the order has to be shipped to a store from the warehouse. For merchants that want to offer same day pick up for BOPIS orders, it makes more sense to fulfill orders using inventory found in their store locations.
Using BOPIS on Shopify Plus
For merchants using Shopify’s POS system, there’s functionality to set up the option for customers to pick up their online orders at your retail store, curbside, or any location that you choose.
Shopify’s POS system includes functionality that allows merchants to set up the option for customers to pick up their online orders in the retail store, or curbside. For merchants who are already using Shopify POS this is a simple way to introduce BOPIS.
When using Shopify POS, each pickup order requires you or a staff member to verify that the ordered item is in stock. Once verified, you can send a notification to the customer that the order is ready. When a customer comes to get their order, staff then need to change the order status within Shopify from unfulfilled to fulfilled. This signals to the merchant and all staff that the order has been picked up and no further action is required.
This option is a good one for businesses that are using Shopify POS, but for larger retailers that are using their own POS systems it won’t suffice. For enterprise level retailers, an integration that enables a fully omnichannel experience that can be scaled is the way to go. The first step for enterprise retailers is to book a consultation with Diff to review your store’s omnichannel strategy.
Make BOPIS Part of Your Omnichannel Strategy
It’s expected that the technology supporting BOPIS will become even more intelligent in the coming years. In the future, order management systems may be able to support more complex order fulfilment. A single transaction might involve some items available for in-store pick up, while the rest are shipped.
And, we may see the further development of dedicated streams for in-store pickup. A dedicated stream creates opportunities for more personalized pick-up experiences. Some retailers have already begun introducing these dedicated streams.
For example, when arriving in a store to collect an order, the customer is directed to a specific counter that services BOPIS orders. In the future, these dedicated streams may add more elements of personalization. When arriving at a store to pick up a BOPIS order, a customer could be presented with a bag of recommended products.
BOPIS is becoming increasingly popular with customers and can generate additional in-store revenue. It eliminates the pain of shipping and processing while delivering a convenient shopping experience. And, consumers love that it offers the best of both worlds. They have the freedom to shop online at their leisure, while also going into the physical location for an in-store experience.
By 2021, it’s now predicted that 90% of brick-and-mortar retailers will offer BOPIS. With other omnichannel use cases continuing to gain popularity and become the norm, there’s not a better time than now to introduce this checkout option which in the coming years is poised to become a customer expectation.
By Hai-Long Nguyen, Director, System Integrations at Diff Agency
At Diff we do in-depth research to figure out what omnichannel strategy will work best for your ecommerce store. If you have questions about omnichannel and introducing BOPIS, let’s chat!
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This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.