The Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) model has long been used as a way for resellers and brands to bridge the gap between brick and mortar stores and online-only retail.
As cities, regions and nations continue to re-open from their COVID-19 measures, BOPIS could also bridge an important gap for shops navigating the regulatory and social uncertainties that go along with re-opening.
From scalability to safety, the BOPIS model presents several benefits for brands as shelter-at-home orders are lifted.
Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store is a Win-Win for Brands and Consumers
There’s a lot to like about the BOPIS model in general from both the brand and consumer perspective. For brick and mortar brands without a logistics solution in place, it offers a solid alternative for local consumers to make purchases online.
It also overcomes the trade-off that occurs with traditional online shopping purchases, writes the team at PriceSpider. Delivering a product directly to someone’s front door is more convenient, but it can take longer and costs more. Either the consumer has to pay a delivery fee or the brand has to absorb it. BOPIS removes both the additional fee and the wait time.
A 2019 CommerceHub survey found that consumers were fans of this benefit, too. Almost all (93%) of the respondents said they would consider the BOPIS model as it meant they could get their items quicker while saving money.
Case in point, Adobe’s Giselle Abramovich says brands with BOPIS models “won cyber week 2019”. She points to research that shows Cyber Week BOPIS usage was up nearly 50% year-over-year in the five-day period. What’s more, consumers were 20% more likely to convert with brands that offered this fulfillment option than those who didn’t.
BOPIS Demand has Surged During the Pandemic
BOPIS was already on the rise pre-COVID, but the pandemic has sent demand — for curbside pickup, especially — soaring. The adoption has definitely been hastened because of COVID, says Greg Portell, Lead Partner at consulting firm Kearney. “It is important to note that this is due to necessity rather than purely being about consumer preference,” he explains. “The push on curbside pickup has forced retailers to improve how they deliver the service.”
A CommerceHub survey found consumers are 59% “more likely to use curbside pickup following the coronavirus outbreak.” There is also evidence that these new habits may outlast the pandemic. Even among those already subscribed to a delivery service like Amazon Prime, three-quarters said they would continue to use curbside pickup once the pandemic was over.
4 BOPIS Problems Brands Will Need to Overcome
While BOPIS has proved popular for brands and consumers alike, the model is far from perfect. In fact, certain problems pose serious challenges to the BOPIS model in the near future.
BOPIS Doesn’t Scale Well
Unlike wholly online retailers, where vast warehouses make it easy to scale up fulfillment, brick and mortar stores have a much harder time getting a large volume of orders out the door. In the current climate, this has seen multiple-day-long wait times for delivery and pickup become “the new normal,” writes Susan Selasky at the Detroit Free Press.
Grocery stores, in particular, aren’t designed for large-scale pick-and-pack operations, says Neil Stern, a Senior Partner at retail consultancy McMillanDoolittle. The sheer size of many grocery stores, the vast number of SKUs and the lack of dedicated space make it impossible to get a large number of orders out the door.
Being big doesn’t make things easier. The opposite is true. “The more foot traffic you drive to your physical stores, the more effort and time it takes to serve all shoppers and provide them with the best experience,” says Ayat Shukairy, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at CRO consulting firm Invesp.
High Demand Can Lead to Inventory Issues
High BOPIS demand can lead to availability issues in stores that haven’t adequately siloed their inventory, writes Deb Marotta, Vice President of Retail Industry at Hitachi Solutions America. In many instances, resellers use their store inventory to fulfill BOPIS orders. Without a clear separation between online and in-store purchases, resellers risk delivering a bad experience for one set of customers.
Research by fulfillment company Fabric found that inventory issues are common in stores that offer BOPIS, reports Morgan Forde at Supply Chain Dive. Resellers must make sure that they have enough inventory to meet the needs of both in-store and collection customers. Where that isn’t the case, a BOPIS fulfillment model will cause stock outages, long checkout lines and a poor consumer experience.
This is a particular problem for stores that have only recently adopted a BOPIS model. Retailers are used to only storing inventory to meet the needs of in-store shoppers, writes Sarah Hippold, Senior PR Manager, Supply Chain Practice at Gartner. “If the store is short of popular products or doesn’t carry popular BOPIS products, excessive amounts of inventory must be shipped to the store everyday to meet demands,” she explains.
BOPIS Isn’t Always Possible
Curbside pickup is a great solution, but it isn’t a given, writes Brad Tuttle at Money.com. Chains typically only offer the service in specific locations, for instance. Even if stores want to provide it, local regulations may make it impossible.
Case in point: In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order banned non-essential stores from offering curbside collection, journalist Aditi Shrikant writes.
Small store owners may not be able to afford to operate a BOPIS model at all due to the large staff requirements, reports CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn. “Paying that many workers would…cost grocers a lot more money, and many smaller chains don’t have the resources,” he writes. “They have already hired more workers during the pandemic to meet demand, and they’re raising pay for existing employees to convince them to stay on the job.”
Retailers Could Buckle Under Demand
Surging demand for BOPIS is putting significant pressure on resellers, and there’s a danger some will buckle under it.
All of the resellers he’s spoken to have been “overwhelmed,” says Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology. Whether home delivery or curbside pickup, brands are failing to fulfill orders due to the sheer number they have received.
Stores will need to make some pretty big changes to deal with the rise in demand, says Jana Davis, Director of Research at Acosta. Hiring new employees in the short-term is a must. So is expanding the hours during which customers can make collections. “Some chains are even going so far as to convert a limited number of stores to online-only fulfillment to keep up with increasing demand,” she says.
Such changes need to be implemented quickly. Customer satisfaction plummets plus you risk future business when you fail to successfully deliver BOPIS, according to analyst Ken Morris at Boston Main Streets Foundation.
BaaS and BOPIS: The Perfect Partnership
A business-as-a-service provider can help brands and resellers overcome the majority of these problems with an all-in-one eCommerce solution that:
- Gets physical stores online quickly. BOPIS is only an option if customers can purchase your products online. You don’t need to waste months creating the perfect website, however. Scalefast helps you sell direct to consumers in just 15 days.
- Provides real-time insight into inventory. Avoid disappointing in-store shoppers and BOPIS customers alike by getting a proper handle on your inventory. Real-time online dashboards let you see inventory levels at a glance so you know where stock is.
- Handles home delivery fulfillment. Some customers still don’t want to visit stores. Outsourcing fulfillment means you can sell to anyone, anywhere, without having to worry about managing your own warehouse.
- Offers back-office support and administrative assistance. Juggling in-person and eCommerce sales can quickly become a headache. Avoid added stress by working with a merchant of record and authorized reseller who takes full financial responsibility for sales and tax compliance.
The BOPIS model isn’t a silver bullet during these turbulent times. Combine it with a BaaS solution, however, and you have the functionality, flexibility and support stores need to continue selling effectively as the economy begins to re-open and recover.