BOPIS: Consumers Love the Idea, If Not Always the Experience. Here’s One Way to Fix That

It’s a natural development along the digital highway. Fast can never be fast enough. Even shopping online, already fast, isn’t always fast enough. Sure, you can order something in a jiffy, but you still need to go wait by the mailbox a day or two to actually get it.

So, how about ordering something online, and then dashing to the store to pick up it, like takeout pizza? That’s the development, and in the retail sector it’s usually known as BOPIS: buy online, pick up in store. Still relatively new, BOPIS is becoming more popular by the day with both consumers and retailers, with numerous large stores making substantial investments in BOPIS and reporting sizeable growth.

It’s easy to see the appeal. For the consumer, it’s shopping without needing to roam the aisles. You can browse, read reviews and compare prices for as long as you like before making a choice. Once you do, no shipping charges. No one needs to be home to sign for it, and the package won’t sit in the rain all day on the porch. If you want it right now, you can go get it right now. If not, go when convenient.

For the retailer, did we mention no shipping charges? Moreover, it gets shoppers into the store, having already bought something and receptive to buying something else. According to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, seven out of 10 shoppers picking up orders went ahead and made additional purchases.

Research across the board shows that many consumers have already used BOPIS, and most of the rest are open to it, including our own study.  In theory, BOPIS is a great deal all around.

The best intentions

Unfortunately, reality is usually a lot messier than theory. Intended to be all about convenience, the experience so far has often been all about inconvenience. Consumers who have come to expect seamless omnichannel retail service — what works in person works online works via mobile — roll the dice when it comes to BOPIS. Some retailers already excel at it, much to consumers’ delight. Others are finding challenge after challenge.

A Washington Post story  from last holiday season describes the situation thoroughly. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did, with an incredible 60% of Black Monday BOPIS orders going amiss in some fashion. To be sure, there’s no shortage of potential pitfalls. Items in stock when the consumer orders at noon turn out not to be at 6 p.m. when they show up. No helpful signs leading to the pickup point in-store. Long lines while associates search in vain for orders backstage.

And that’s just on the customer side of the counter. For the sales associates out there on the floor, BOPIS is both a blessing and a curse — and you may hear some cursing, as they’re forced to take valuable selling time with in-store customers to go fetch and pack orders for pickups. Conversely, sales personnel stashing popular items so they can’t be set aside for BOPIS customers isn’t unknown, either.

Other problems  can include a lack of training in BOPIS procedures and technology, as well as weak overall organization, leading to sales associates’ unfamiliarity with a process that must run smoothly to live up to its billing. The end result is predictable customer-alienating run-arounds.

Any of that sound familiar?

Getting consumers in the store and sales associates on board

BOPIS may be a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean your only option is to stand by and watch. These in-store inconveniences are where we can be of help when developing your omnichannel strategy.

First, of course, comes rebates. You can encourage online shopping by offering particular rebates only online. Our research referenced above shows why this can be such a powerful tool: 86% of shoppers would consider BOPIS to save $10 on a $50 item. Rebates can allow you to offer the lowest advertised price when consumers are comparing deals before they order, which often enough can be the whole ballgame.

A tactic you may not have considered is specific retail employee incentives for your sales associates. It’s surely no fun to have commission-less retrieval duties added to normal responsibilities, but the flip side is the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell ready-and-willing BOPIS customers. Associates can be rewarded for these sales, the number of BOPIS packages they efficiently fulfill, or for completing start-to-finish training. And we also have the platform to effectively manage it all.

Omnichannel customer experience expectations are stratospheric, no question. But they’ll need to be met, and your sales associates have the most power to make that happen — or not. Making it worth their while to ensure that they’re the reason customers come back, rather than the reason they never will, can be a big step toward BOPIS success.



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