The COVID-19 pandemic has set some new ground rules for retail businesses around the world. As convenience stores, supermarkets, and shopping centers closed down for uncertain periods; businesses have come to realize that omnichannel is the inevitable way forward to fulfill customers in 2020 and the times ahead.
Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store, also known as BOPIS, is a rising new trend in the world of omnichannel retailing. The concept of BOPIS has been there for a while, offering 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, the pick-up can be done 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 a curbside delivery, drive to the store location and wait for a store associate to come and hand over the items, without ever leaving the car. In some cases, the store associates also deliver merchandise to the trunk of customers’ cars.
BOPIS: A Must-Have Omnichannel Capability
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 a preferred way of shopping for customers. Nearly 67% of shoppers in the US have used Buy Online Pick Up In Store services since the COVID-19 outbreak.
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.
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.
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 with guessworks to replenish stocks for their stores, 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 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 Artificial Intelligence helps 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 behaviours 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 will it 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.
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 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.