For modern shoppers, it’s all about convenience and speed. And since the COVID pandemic sent us all into quarantine in 2020, the habits and behaviors of consumers have become more and more digital.
More than 70% of shoppers adopted a new shopping habit in 2020 and 2021, and more than 60% plan to continue those practices. Those habits include increased digital shopping, a larger focus on convenient checkout, and a greater influence from social media. In fact, digital shopping recorded a 50% year-over-year increase in revenue. And the number of purchases made directly from a social media channel increased by 104%. But the largest pivot and new favorite shopping habit of customers is here to stay—Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS).
Adoption rates for BOPIS have been steadily growing over the past five years, clocking in around 40% in 2016. But they’re expected to grow to 90% by 2024. And for retailers, BOPIS is a heavy contributor to the bottom line in their retail strategy.
BOPIS: Buy online and pick up in store.
The benefits of bopis are obvious for both consumer and retailer. The convenience for the customer of buying online, and the convenience of the business of not dealing with shipping to the customer’s home—it’s a compromise that works well for store and customer.
The traditional BOPIS route is for a customer to make a purchase on a retailer’s website and check “pick up in store” at checkout rather than home delivery. The store provides the address of their brick and mortar location for the consumer to pick up the merchandise and also usually provides a way to let the customer know when the order is ready to pick up (a text or email). Once the customer receives notification that the merchandise is ready for pickup, the customer goes to the local store address provided and picks the merchandise up themselves.
However, while BOPIS sounds straightforward—buy a product online and then pick it up in store—and it can be, brands can also execute the pickup experience in a few different ways:
- With an app: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, parks in a designated waiting space, indicates their arrival on the app, and a team member delivers the purchased product to their vehicle while the shopper waits curbside at the pickup area.
- With a phone call: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, parks in a designated waiting space, indicates their arrival by dialing the store’s phone number and speaking to a team member, and then a team member delivers the purchased product to their vehicle while the shopper waits curbside.
- With a text: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, parks in a designated waiting space, indicates their arrival via text message, and a team member delivers the purchased product to their vehicle while the shopper waits curbside.
- With an app: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, gets in the drive-thru line, and then confirms their purchase via the app when they reach the drive-thru window.
- With a text: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, gets in the drive-thru line, and then confirms their purchase via text message when they reach the drive-thru window.
- With an app: The shopper completes their purchase online, drives to the designated store location, walks into the store to wait their turn to pick up their purchased items. When it’s time to speak to a team member, the shopper shows their receipt or confirmation number on their app to collect their items.
Brick-and-mortar versus online.
You’ve probably experienced both brick-and-mortar and online methods in your own shopping experiences. Brick-and-mortar storefronts are the stores you see all along the side of the road. They are a physical location a customer can walk into and buy merchandise. Purchasing online orders happens on a website. There are strategic benefits to both.
The online shopping experience is one of the most seamless for customers. They simply put the merchandise into their “cart,” provide payment information, and the merchandise shows up on their doorstep. However convenient the online shopping experience is for customers, there are a lot of extra hassles and costs for retailers. Retailers have to keep careful track of inventory to avoid selling more than they hold, they have to figure out the logistics of home delivery, and they often take on extra costs in turn. Here are some of the other challenges of online shopping:
More than half of consumers say that repeating themselves is one of their top frustrations. With BOPIS, this issue can creep up quickly—a customer arrives at their designated store location and after indicating they have arrived via app or phone call, they must do so again (and maybe again) in order to receive their products. If they’re connecting with the store via phone call, the likelihood of getting placed on hold is high. And that just adds frustration—especially for the 49% of consumers that say long hold times are one of the top reasons phone calls are so frustrating.
And consumers don’t want to be on a phone call. They prefer mobile apps and text. In fact, 80% of consumers start their buying process from a mobile device. It makes sense that they would want to complete that process on their phone as well—not speaking on the phone with a team member.
Not enough pickup options.
For 80% of consumers, convenience is a top priority in a positive customer experience. Before BOPIS options, consumers were left with shopping in store or selecting shipping at checkout as they shopped online. Today, many BOPIS options are too limited—sidestepping any convenience that could be added to the customer journey—offering a very small improvement upon past shopping choices.
At the minimum, BOPIS often looks like a customer shopping online, waiting several hours to pick up their purchased items, and then walking in store to collect their products. The physical act of walking in the store and waiting in a line is likely the complete opposite to what consumers love about BOPIS—a faster, contactless, and touchless experience.
In other scenarios, consumers are required to stick to one pickup option—the one they selected at checkout. This rigidity shows up in scenarios like this: a customer arrives at the store and then remembers another item they need to go inside and purchase. Instead of toggling between pickup options at the store (picking up their items inside now vs. curbside or through a drive thru), they must wait through two lines—the BOPIS curbside pickup and then walk into the store to purchase the additional items.
Customers expect a seamless, connected customer journey. When they’re met with long wait times, clunky online ordering, disorganized staff running out orders to cars, and situations where their orders are overlooked and they have to seek out help on the phone or in the store, the customer experience is frustrating. And disjointed processes often indicate that internally, things are too chaotic.
Many businesses struggle to offer simple BOPIS offerings simply because they lack adequate communication and coordination internally, and may have too many internal and customer communication tools in place that don’t integrate, leaving information siloed and difficult to find. In these cases, adding another channel to coordinate customer pickups won’t solve the problem (or make customers happy).
Pick up in store.
In comes the solution: pick up in store. For retailers who have a physical location, nothing beats the convenience of customers coming in to buy their merchandise. But in this online world, stores who don’t have online options will quickly fall behind in the race for business.
The solution for many retailers is BOPIS, or “buy online pick up in store.” This method means that in the online shopping cart, customers can choose an option to pick up the purchased goods at the physical location of the retailer in question instead of having it shipped directly to their door. This generally eliminates shipping costs for the purchaser, as well as the retailer, thus becoming an appealing option for many. Here are three ways to create a seamless BOPIS process:
1. Communicate with customers in real-time.
Local shoppers that buy online still need a real-time experience—whether that’s through a real-time inventory check at their local retailer, an easy-to-use messaging option that will help shoppers get answers quickly, or a more seamless check-in experience in the store or curbside.
2. Upgrade your payment processes.
Contactless and touchless experiences are expectations that are here to stay—even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Nearly 80% of consumers say they want businesses to continue offering contactless payments after the pandemic. And the reasonings are clear—it’s safe, fast, convenient, and more sanitary.
3. Speed up the checkout process.
What makes the checkout process speedy? For BOPIS customers it can mean multiple checkout options—curbside, drive-through, and in-store, automated check-in messages, opportunities to switch the pick-up option once the customer has arrived at the store, and offering more same-day service. For 40% of consumers, same-day service is so important they’re willing to pay more for the option instead of waiting until the next business day or longer for their purchase.
If you are interested in BOPIS retailing, this is the place to start. You’ll need a brick and mortar location, as well as online purchasing capabilities. And pairing them together you may just be an unstoppable force with a great connection to your local customers. They might even buy something else while they’re in your store and become customers for life.