The COVID-19 pandemic set some new ground rules for retail businesses around the world. Convenience stores, supermarkets, and shopping centers all over the world closed down for uncertain periods, and businesses came to realize that adopting omnichannel order fulfillment was inevitable to fulfill customer demand as it helped bridge the gap between traditional and modern retail.
Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store, also known as BOPIS, has been a trend in the world of omnichannel retailing. It brings the best of both worlds together by combining online shopping and in-person pick-up. The concept of BOPIS is not new, but has picked up again since the pandemic as it offers busy consumers the convenience of browsing products online, adding items to their cart, and later picking them up at the store at a time suitable to them.
Once the customer places an order online, it can be picked up in different ways. The customer can go inside the store to a designated online pickup point where a store associate will hand over the items. The customer can also opt for curbside delivery, drive to the store location and wait for a store associate to come and hand over the items at their car. In some cases, the store associates also deliver merchandise to the trunk of customers’ cars.
BOPIS: A must-have omnichannel retail solution
BOPIS in retail saves customers the time and trouble of looking for products in the store. All that the customer has to do is place an order online and pick it up on the go.
With COVID-19 disrupting the retail landscape, BOPIS has now become the preferred way of shopping for customers. According to this report by Statista, curbside pickup was a convenient delivery option for about half the US population in 2021. Around 47% of customers picked this option to avoid going to stores, and 46% considered in-store a better and quicker alternative to home delivery. Nearly 67% of shoppers in the US have used BOPIS services since the pandemic.
How does BOPIS work?
It is evident that ease and convenience has a big role to play in making the BOPIS model work. Customers would like the option to pick up their order whenever they want and the click-and-collect model enables them to do so. Here’s how this retail fulfillment method works:
- Customer purchases the order online: The customer makes a purchase by accessing the business’ website or the mobile app. The time and pick-up location is selected by the customer before check-out. Inventory updates inform the customer about the availability of pick-up.
- Order is fulfilled: If the item is available in a store, a notification in the form of an email or text is sent to the customer. In case of its unavailability, it must first be ordered from another store to the warehouse in question.
- Order is collected: The customer opts for either an in-store pickup or collects the order from a designated location. Curbside pick-ups, where the customer drives to the storefront, and the order is handed to them, are popular too.
Why BOPIS is popular as a retail fulfillment method
This approach of selling has become so popular because it allows retailers to continue selling and fulfilling customer demands without violating the social distancing norms. Several e-commerce brands are also using the BOPIS model to their advantage, leveraging local retail stores as same-day fulfillment centers for their online shoppers.
A win-win for customers and retailers
Apart from the sheer convenience that this order fulfillment system offers, there are several other factors that draw customers to BOPIS. Some of these factors are listed below:
- Minimum to zero shipping costs: One of the big factors for customers to opt for BOPIS is that it allows them to save on shipping charges. In the case the store does ask for a fee, it is minimal.
- Quick service: Unless the item is not in stock, customers can immediately head to their local store to collect their package after placing the order.
- In-stock insurance: The BOPIS order fulfillment method allows customers to determine whether the product fits their requirements when they visit the store. In case it doesn’t, they can return it right away, thus reducing the hassles that come with handling returns in an e-commerce model.
The BOPIS retail model is a win-win deal for customers as well as retailers. It makes store management more effective without having to worry about crowded shops and long billing queues. It also helps in reducing operating costs for retailers, as shipping and doorstep delivery is not needed in this model. At the same time, retail businesses have also seen an uptick in BOPIS sales as compared to in-store sales. This is because customers are likely to purchase more items when browsing inventories online.
Challenges in BOPIS Fulfillment
Although BOPIS fulfillment is a convenient mode of selling, there are some common challenges that retailers must overcome in order to ensure seamless pick-up services and a happy customer experience.
Check Out: New Fulfilment Models in Logistics
Real-time Inventory Management
Oftentimes, due to high or uncertain order volumes, retailers and e-commerce brands find it difficult to keep the right inventory levels in stores. Shortage of in-store inventory can lead to a delivery promise going unmet. Storekeepers cannot simply carry on replenishing stocks with guesswork, especially when offering a BOPIS service.
Fast & Efficient Order Packaging
The definition of last-mile operations is slightly different in BOPIS selling, as compared to an e-commerce or home delivery service. The customer places an order, and sets up a time for self pick-up. Usually, there is just about an hour or a couple of hours left for the storekeeper to pack the ordered items and keep them ready for pick-up. Customers expect the fast, neat and orderly packaging of orders, and even a small negligence can impact the shopping journey, especially with hygiene and safety taking the center stage due to COVID-19.
Managing Pick-Up Queues
Customers hate to wait in long queues, whether it’s at a supermarket billing store or a self-pick-up counter. BOPIS retailers must have an efficient system in place to keep pick-up queues moving fast and smoothly, such as having a designated area and even designated staff to deal with customers quickly. This is especially important to ensure fast deliveries during peak seasons and to adhere with social distancing rules.
Notifying Customers about Order Status
During the short span between order placing and in-store pick-up, it is important to keep communication clear and accurate with the customers. Real-time visibility is a must-have in the BOPIS retail model and businesses must establish a standard system to notify customers in real-time about their orders so they can plan their visit to the store accordingly.
How does Artificial Intelligence help in the BOPIS Retail Supply Chain?
With the help of Artificial Intelligence and data science capabilities, retailers can fill the gaps in BOPIS retail distribution and optimize last-mile journeys for their customers. Retailers can unlock the power of data science to observe customer shopping carts, seasonal trends, and market dynamics to offer more personalized BOPIS shopping offers. Analyzing and identifying customer shopping behaviors can also help retailers in predicting demands and keeping the right amounts of stocks to fulfill the customer.
Implementing a time-slot management system can help retailers allot specific pick-up times to customers, avoiding unnecessary queues at one time, and allowing store managers to plan packaging of daily orders efficiently.
With the help of real-time fleet tracking solutions, retailers can keep customers notified in real-time about their order status, such as details of what time the order will be packed, what time it will be available for pick-up, which store associate will be assigned for assistance, and more. This makes the whole pick-up process more transparent and reliable.
Locus offerings for omnichannel order fulfillment
- Enabling efficient planning and execution: With the help of AI-driven logistics planning, businesses can easily manage their delivery operations. DispatchIQ helps with timely order scheduling, resource allocation and route optimization, making last-mile planning fast and efficient.
- Finding convenient time slots: Locus’ time-slot management system allows logistics managers to plan last-mile operations more systematically. It also allows customers to pick the most convenient time slots for their deliveries or home service requests.
- Real-time tracking of orders: Locus’s live visibility tool helps track orders in real-time and provides live status updates to customers, improving supply chain visibility and keeping customers satisfied.
- Personalizing customer experience: With Locus’ advanced data analytics and insights, businesses can offer customers better, more personalized services. It also allows decision-makers to stay on top of market trends.
BOPIS selling is the new normal for retail businesses, and excellent customer service is the true litmus test for sellers to stand out in the market. Using AI-powered technology to overcome the last-mile distribution problems in BOPIS selling can improve the shopping experience for customers and build a strong brand presence for retailers in the days to come.
Locus offers scalable last-mile optimization solutions to retail businesses for efficient BOPIS fulfillment. Get in touch with us for a quick tour of our solutions.