As a retailer, you’ve probably heard a lot about omnichannel commerce over the past few years, and one of the key topics in this field is the rise of Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS).
With the impact of COVID-19 on traditional shopping habits, providing BOPIS has become even more important — and not just for the big brand stores.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into BOPIS in retail, and cut through the noise to help you understand and overcome the challenges it brings up. We’ll answer questions such as:
- Why is it worth adding BOPIS as a retailer?
- What are the biggest challenges of BOPIS?
- How can retailers overcome these challenges?
Also known as “in-store pickup”, “curbside pickup”, or “click-and-collect”, BOPIS has become a must-do for the biggest retailers — and merchants of all sizes are now following suit. In this guide, we’ll explain how you can provide a seamless BOPIS experience, making inventory available across multiple locations and managing in-store pickup without adding extra work.
Why BOPIS? What are the Advantages to Retailers?
When it’s done right, providing a BOPIS service offers some key advantages to the retailer:
- Bottom-line: BOPIS can be one of the most profitable ways of selling. It’s vastly cheaper than shipping, more time-efficient, and reduces online shopping cart abandonment because customers aren’t dissuaded by shipping costs.
- Increased foot traffic and upsells: Bringing customers into your store increases the chance that they’ll pick up something else on the way out.
- Meeting expectations: Quite simply, more consumers now expect BOPIS, because it reduces the risk of browsing for something which isn’t in stock. The tipping point has long since happened, and mid-sized retailers benefit from keeping up.
However, with heavy pressure on retailers to ramp up their omnichannel offering, many have rushed to introduce BOPIS — and their customer experience has suffered as a result.
This is because they haven’t set themselves up properly in terms of (1) technical infrastructure, (2) processes, and (3) setting customer expectations. Next, we’ll dive into these three issues.
3 Challenges You Need to Meet When Offering BOPIS to Customers
1. Technology Stack and Inventory Management
- You need to make sure that your current infrastructure can accommodate BOPIS orders. This starts with your eCommerce platform, e.g. Shopify or Magento. Does your solution allow customers to select in-store pickup as an option when they make a purchase?
- In order to fulfill BOPIS orders efficiently, your different systems need to talk to each other, sharing accurate order information without the need for logins or manual staff intervention. In multi-channel retail, there are typically three systems in place:
a. The system where you accept the order (e.g. Shopify)
b. The system which holds the inventory (e.g. Lightspeed POS or Heartland Retail)
c. The system where you fulfill the order (e.g. Shipstation)
These systems need to be integrated in a way that doesn’t add extra complexity to your order processing and inventory management.
- You need to surface brick-and-mortar inventory and make it available to your customers when they want to order products online. And, in the back-end, you need to ensure you have more than enough in case of counting errors and missing, or damaged, stock.
- If you only currently fulfill online orders from central warehouses (i.e. not from your stores), you’ll need to change your technical setup to include store locations for BOPIS customers. In short, your stores need to become fulfillment centers.
Note: Accumula integrates eCommerce with POS and fulfillment, making all your inventory available, while allowing you to manipulate what’s available for pickup or delivery. You can book a demo to learn more about how this can help you provide a seamless BOPIS service.
2. Processes, Prioritization, and Gaining Employee Buy-In
If your technical infrastructure is set up to handle BOPIS, and you’ve surfaced the inventory online from the brick-and-mortar stores, you may also need to consider:
- Mid-market businesses and SMBs often don’t have the resources or regimented training procedures that the larger retailers do. This means the knowledge within the business is more “ad-hoc” in nature, so you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to adding new processes.
- How do you teach staff what to prioritize? For example, if an order comes in to ship for a VIP customer, should that take priority over a standard lower-value pickup order?
In this case, if the shipping carrier doesn’t pick up shipments until 3pm, staff could focus on getting the BOPIS order ready and updating the customer ASAP. This will meet (or beat) expectations, and get the customer talking to their friends about enjoying a great experience. This is a totally new way of thinking about order management, especially in SMBs.
- Adding BOPIS might be perceived by staff as an “extra thing to do” on top of their existing work, when in fact it should actually save time when compared to dealing with customers on the shop floor. This misconception can lead to resentment within the ranks, informal deprioritization, and ultimately, a poor customer experience.
Note: BOPIS only adds extra strain on staff when the implementation is botched — i.e. when staff have to manually update unfamiliar systems, when they frequently encounter inventory errors, and when customers are dissatisfied due to inaccurate information.
- Inevitably, mistakes will happen. And processes must be flexible enough to fix issues when they arise. For example, if you find that an item is unavailable at a particular store, you need to be able to switch it easily to a free shipping order instead, or get that item from one location to another — while being able to communicate this to the customer.
The last thing you want is for a customer to turn up at your store when there’s nothing for them to collect. Experiences don’t get much worse than that.
This leads us neatly onto the next set of challenges to meet: communication and setting accurate expectations for customers.
3. Matching the Customer Experience of Major Retail Brands
The big stores — Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and others — are setting new levels of expectation about the BOPIS experience, before many independent stores have even started introducing it.
This means that the goal isn’t just to simply offer BOPIS, but to make it as seamless as the major retailers do. This involves meeting challenges, such as:
- Creating an easy pickup experience. The big stores can dedicate 20 free pickup spaces in the parking lot outside their front entrance, but smaller retailers on the high streets don’t have this option. So, it’s tough to compete in terms of pure convenience.
Note: Accumula offers an “Uber-like” BOPIS mobile app, that allows you to manage the BOPIS experience and see in real-time when a customer is on their way to the store, so your staff can go out and meet them curbside at the right moment.
- Getting orders ready ASAP. The big retailers often give the “ready for pickup” notification within 20-30 minutes, and usually guarantee it within 3-4 hours. This means you must try to fulfill orders in real-time, rather than waiting until the end of the day.
- Communicating with the customer. You need to be able to send clear and accurate notifications, painting a picture of what customers can expect when they arrive at your store.
Let’s say you’re a retailer in the outdoor gear niche. Your customers might be buying from you once a month, or once every two months. But they’re buying from Target every week.
This builds a “muscle memory” because they get used to the experience of using Target, and they’re less tolerant of delays, mistakes, and inconveniences. And that means smaller stores need to work harder to achieve the same level of satisfaction — whether that’s by reaching the same standards of service, or by setting clear and accurate customer expectations.
Note: Accumula can help you keep pace with the big-brand retail stores, by integrating your eCommerce with your POS and fulfillment. Your staff can manage BOPIS with off-the-shelf technology, while keeping 100% inventory accuracy across systems. Book a demo today.
How to Overcome the Challenges of Adding BOPIS
But a problem arises when you have multiple brick-and-mortar stores, and want to make sure all the information is correct across different locations and systems. In this case, your eCommerce solution cannot manage inventory and orders without manual intervention. And this is where Accumula can really add value, by connecting the dots in back-end systems.
How Accumula Helps You Offer a Seamless In-Store/Curbside Pickup Experience
First and foremost, Accumula gives you distributed truth across the systems within your retail business. Our platform integrates your eCommerce solution with your brick-and-mortar POS and fulfillment software, making sure that orders and inventory are aligned across every system.
This means that you can use your eCommerce platform’s off-the-shelf BOPIS functionality, or click-and-collect apps (like Zapiet), without adding any extra complexity.
When you use Accumula to integrate your retail tech stack, you get the following benefits:
- Surface previously hidden inventory for online orders, and turn your stores into fulfillment centers overnight, without needing additional hardware. Normally, this would require a costly combination of an order management system (OMS) with an inventory management system (IMS), working in concert with your fulfillment services.
- Display inventory values that include a safety buffer, removing the danger of overselling when accepting orders on multiple channels. And you can make different quantities “available to ship” and “available for pickup” — and adjust this per location. This means you can tune your inventory availability and control the customers experience.
- Reduce the chances of human error and training mishaps by allowing the eCommerce and fulfillment teams to work with the software they already know. No need for employees to learn new, unfamiliar software. Accumula works in the background to intelligently connect Shopify or Magento to your POS and fulfillment systems.
- Alert staff to a new pickup order in their own POS (e.g Lightspeed) or fulfillment system (e.g. Shipstation), without any need to log in or monitor a different software, or manually intervene. All relevant orders will automatically show up in the right place.
- If something does go wrong, the fulfillment team can simply switch a BOPIS order to a shipping order, without disrupting anything in the order flow. You can also use this to move an item from one location to another, to enable pickup later.
- Reduce the risk if someone leaves the business because there isn’t “one guru” who knows how to hack the system to find a manual workaround. The BOPIS process is automated, standardized, and ready to be picked up by new recruits.
Accumula is a headless solution, meaning it works silently in the background without requiring your staff to log into anything. As an integrator, we ensure that your team can manage orders confidently, and not get distracted by software admin or unwelcome inventory surprises.
How to Add BOPIS and Manage Omnichannel Retail Efficiently
There is no single inventory source that can serve the needs of your whole business. So, we believe that it’s about distributing truth — being able to manage all the different inventory stores that are part of your organization.
And you should be able to do this in a way that accounts for your most important use cases, e.g. BOPIS, shipping eCommerce orders, brick-and-mortar sales, preorders, returns, and every other aspect of omnichannel commerce.
Accumula provides workflows that help you deal with these use cases, without adding the burden of extra apps or systems. This allows your staff to focus on what they do best — creating an unbeatable customer experience; one that rivals anything the big retailers can offer.
Book a demo today, and see first-hand how Accumula can help you manage commerce across multiple physical, digital, and hybrid channels.