- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- June 29, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic served as a both a catalyst and an accelerant for multimodal retail experiences, perhaps best exemplified by the “BO” acronyms: BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store), BOSFS (buy online, ship from store), and BORIS (buy online, return in-store). While these services had been used by retailers prior to the pandemic, the immediate and total shutdowns of in-store shopping that were mandated in many areas around the world fueled the increase in the use of these services by both customers and retailers. A Digital Commerce 360 survey from August 2020 found that 43.7% of the top 500 retailers with physical stores were offering BOPIS, an increase from just 6.9% prior to the pandemic.
“For retailers, the BOPIS solution is great because it allows them to be more efficient with their inventory by selling through product in the stores faster while also providing additional convenience for customers at low to no cost,” says Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group, a retail consulting firm that advises some of the country’s largest Fortune 500 brands. “It’s also an opportunity for retailers to harness traffic from pickups to identify additional opportunities to solve customer pain-points or bundle additional offerings that a customer may not have considered when researching on their own online.”
To execute these services, as well as ensure a frictionless customer experience, retailers need to have a robust technology solution, well-defined processes and procedures, intelligent inventory and picking processes, well-trained and dedicated staffers, and appropriate parking and curbside management strategies.
Whether provided via a fully integrated platform or a combination of apps, retailers need a software solution that can support a consumer mobile app (to allow customers to place, modify, or return orders, and let them know they have arrived to pick up their products), as well as back-end functionality that links to the retailer’s fulfillment system and customer care functions.
The software must be able to accurately reflect what products are available, and be able to track order status, internal fulfillment workflows, location handling issues, and customer engagement (such as inquiries), or consumers may not have confidence in the process. It should also be able to handle cross-channel activity, such as being able to collect a return in-store, and then handle and track the item through the return process, even if the item was purchased online or from another location.
Defined operational processes, procedures, and staffing models
Due to the more complex nature of BOPIS, BOSFS, and BORIS, the retailer needs to clearly plan out how it intends to handle customer interactions and establish certain policies that mate with the company’s software tracking and fulfilment capabilities. This exercise should extend to store employees, who must be well trained in the order preparation, fulfillment, and customer handling processes, across all potential scenarios, so that the ordering, fulfillment, pickup, or return process appears seamless to the customer.
In addition, to maximize efficient execution and minimize friction, retailers should consider having dedicated staff for each of the services offered to ensure that customers are not waiting or dealing with staff who are unfamiliar with each process. This is particularly important for retailers that deal with high-value items that some customers prefer to pick up in-store.
“The ability to browse and order online and then pick up product in-store is good for customers because it provides convenience with more immediate gratification rather than waiting two days or more for the order to arrive,” Castelán says. “Furthermore, on high-ticket items, the ability to pick up in-store provides an added level of security to avoid any theft or even damage that could occur if the item is delivered and left outside a home.”
Appropriate parking and curbside management
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of BOPIS or BORIS is managing the process of picking up orders from within the store. While most areas have relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, customers have become accustomed to being able to find parking that is close to the entrance. To accomplish this, retailers must assign an area in the parking lot just for curbside pickups that can be easily located (with visible signage), along with additional BOPIS-only parking for customers who are just running in to grab their orders. These areas should be well designed to allow for logical flow, so that bottlenecks in the parking lot do not impact customers’ experience onsite.
These physical issues impacting BOPIS and BORIS can be supported by the use of technology, such as cameras to monitor issues with parking or curbside pickup and queue management software, to ensure an appropriate number of staff is on hand to manage in-store pickups. Retailers need to consistently monitor both the physical processes and their software to ensure that each part of the processes are efficient, logical, and working in concert to create a seamless on-premise experience.
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