Find the sweet spot of innovative transactions

If a retailer views “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store” purely as e-commerce, they’re losing. Each transaction in which customers pick up in-store is a chance to add value to the relationship. Whether that means speed, cross-selling, or a unique bit of customer service that amplifies the visit, BOPIS plays just as important a role as the rest of the brick-and-mortar experience. Some trips may not translate to additional purchases right then and there, but the way a retailer handles pickup can dictate how the customer feels about the brand.

To get the most out of BOPIS, retailers should ask themselves a few important questions.

Does in-store pickup give customers an inventive brand experience?

The pickup area is a micro-version—a glimpse—of the larger brand and store experience, and it should be held to the same standards. One way to see the express zone is as its own store entirely:

“Some of the grocery store guys, like HEB, are actually building onto their stores and creating almost separate convenience store outlets if you will. But they’re also utilized for order online, pick it up at the curb kind of mentality. This audience is kind of time-centric, every minute counts.”Dick Lew, Brand Practice Leader, Gensler

Convenience is definitely paramount, but not at the cost of a positive brand experience. There are some key considerations at play:

  • Is the express area easily accessed, with clear signage throughout the store?
  • Is it placed upfront purely for quick discovery, or is it driving additional customer engagement by existing deeper in the store?
  • Are there options for self-checkout AND interaction with a sales associate if need be?
  • Is consumer-friendly tech being implemented to streamline the process even further?

Macy’s, for example, has followed Amazon’s lead and installed lockers in 50 store locations where customers can quickly (and securely) collect their purchased items. They’ve also piloted mobile payment through an app that lets customers completely skip the line.

Which tools can turn pickup into upsell?

Getting customers in-store for pickup isn’t “half the battle.” It’s winning at least two battles. Not only do retailers save on shipping costs—they gain a very concrete chance for further sales:

“Attachment rates means that when customers end up going to buy online and pickup in store, they’ll buy other items. And that could translate to 30 percent or more customers buying other items.” — Oliver Chen, Managing Director, Cowen & Company

A number of retailers, including Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Sears, have incentivized sales by offering as much as a 20% in-store discount to BOPIS customers. What other promotional tools might help?

  • More “targeted” discounts on items specifically related to one’s purchase
  • Loyalty programs that allow BOPIS customers to build credit toward the next season’s releases
  • Trial items included as a “surprise” with one’s order
  • Push notifications for items in low supply or newly available in a customer’s size

Is BOPIS ready for a new name altogether?

The path from item selection online to reliable fulfillment in-store and secure mobile payment needs to be uninterrupted and painless. A must for the digital experience is to build robust, illustrative product content online, offering users an accurate portrait of items well before they arrive to collect. But that’s not always the path a customer takes. Sometimes online purchase comes from the other direction, beginning with in-store exploration.

Zara has played with both automated online collection points in-store and, in an interesting twist, a “reversal” of the process: pop-up stores that give users the option to interact with clothing but then buy online in-store and have items delivered the very same day. One could call this “Buy In-Store, Pickup at Home.” BISPAH, anyone? And then there are customers who might not buy in-the-moment but after they’ve left the store. Those who DISCO—“Delight In-Store, Checkout Online.”

In all seriousness, it’s likely that BOPIS needs a reframing. How would you rename it to focus less on the path to purchase or item fulfillment and more on the power of the customer experience?

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Updated Jan 10, 2019 | Originally published August 2018