BOPIS means making everything happen at once

Feb 24, 2016

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.

BOPIS promises to combine the timesaving convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of in-store shopping. But problems start when stores can’t make everything happen at once.

In short, stores need to start thinking not only about the time burden they place on shoppers, but the once immutable progression of purchase behavior within discreet time phases. Simultaneous purchase, promotion and fulfillment — that’s the key to an effective pickup execution.

For stores considering an aggressive BOPIS rollout, here are some common execution challenges to consider:

1. Inventory management

Get products where they need to be, when they need to be there. For big box chain retailers, it’s particularly difficult to get the merchandising side of operations to give up space. Where does this often “paid for” inventory exist until it is picked up? How is it made readily accessible to consumers?

2. Retraining associates

Low satisfaction with retail associates already keeps consumers out of stores in the first place, and BOPIS consumers are by their nature short on time and patience. Flawless execution and expertise will enable cross-sell and upsell opportunities at or better than that achieved online.

3. Point-of-sale

Retailers must readjust traditional store formats to accommodate the hybrid purchase models of online shopping and in-store pickup. Do you need 50 checkout aisles if you have consumers paying online? What is the spatial and temporal distance between shelf/storage and the point-of-fulfillment for the customer? We’ve found most consumers don’t find back-of-store pay counters (right next to the inventory) appealing, yet good design would make all the difference.

4. Store format

In-store and offsite solutions are the most straightforward, requiring minimal investment in renovations, although for big box chain store retailers, it may require relocating fixtures. Drive-thru, kiosk and curbside pickup will all have to contend with weather and traffic flow, and customers won’t tolerate gridlock in parking lots. And how about branding? How can new spaces, whether lockers or kiosks, be thematically connected with the store? How can they be made to “feel” consistent with the overall brand?

Photo: Walmart

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which of the BOPIS execution challenges listed in the article do you think is most important for retailers to focus on? What suggestions would you add to those in the article to improve BOPIS execution?

"Since store payrolls are unlikely to grow in a flat sales environment, this trend is eroding one of the key reasons why shoppers visit brick-and-mortar locations in the first place."
"BOPIS is both an execution challenge and a huge opportunity to drive sales."
"Like any new shopper offering, I would start small and test receptivity to both products and processes and build a system that is ultra customer-centric."

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26 Comments on "BOPIS means making everything happen at once"

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Peter Charness

Inventory management. Not just where does “paid for” inventory sit, but how do I put the extra inventory into a store needed for pickup, particularly when that extra inventory is not necessarily part of that store’s native assortment, or within the quantity levels that a prudent stock plan for a store would require? Turning a store into a “multi-use plant” (sell, pickup and ship-from) means a complete rethinking of how to plan and manage the inventory for the plant. Solving the issue of the store’s inventory need as a key point in the customer fulfillment chain is a completely different paradigm for how retailers deal with store assortments and stock levels today.

Ken Lonyai

As stated, all aspects of execution must mesh or UX falls apart and the entire BOPIS concept can quickly flip and become a detractor. One piece that I’ll add which falls under retraining associates is prioritizing BOPIS. A consumer selects the service as a time saver, but if they have to wait in line at a shared customer service counter (sort of as pictured) while other patrons tie up associates with, say, return issues, BOPIS gains nothing. It must be a dash-and-go type of procedure or retailers can just nix it.

Dick Seesel

I think there are two broader challenges brought on by BOPIS specifically and stores’ rush to create an “omnichannel” experience in general.

First, brick-and-mortar stores are devoting more of their associates’ hours to off-the-floor activity (such as pulling and readying BOPIS orders) instead of the face-to-face customer interaction still expected in most physical stores. And, since store payrolls are unlikely to grow in a flat sales environment, this trend is eroding one of the key reasons why shoppers visit brick-and-mortar locations in the first place.

Second, stores are trying to emulate in their physical locations the breadth of assortment found on their websites. This is meant to make the BOPIS fulfillment process easier, or at least to offer the customer more choices. But sometimes the customer wants more editing, not more assortment, and the resultant clutter and lack of focus does nothing to make the shopping trip more appealing.

Cathy Hotka

BOPIS is both an execution challenge and a huge opportunity to drive sales. Operations professionals are having conversations every day about who should pick merchandise and where to make it available. Some retailers are encouraging efficient in-store pickup by rewarding stores with additional personnel time for each order fulfilled. It’s a brave new world.

Tom Redd

BOPIS? It means “Bopis is a piquant Philippine dish of pork or beef lungs and heart sauteed in tomatoes, chilies and onions. Classified as pulutan in Philippine cuisine, bopis is served with alcoholic beverage.”

So it is the HEART and LUNGS of retail — right? So the most important part for retailers now with no alcohol is INVENTORY. Nothing else matters — not people, price, etc. — if the inventory is not available in a consistent manner at the right locations.

Max Goldberg

Excellent article. The biggest challenges to execution of BOPIS are inventory and allocation of employee time. A successful BOPIS campaign depends on retailers knowing exactly what is in stock in every participating store. Consumers will not tolerate placing an order only to be told that a product is no longer available.

BOPIS adds another layer of complexity to running a store. It makes sales associates become stock personnel. Rather than helping customers on the floor, associates must find stock on the shelves and bring it to a service desk while running the gauntlet of consumer in-store queries. This complexity can add to overall employee dissatisfaction.

Consumers like BOPIS, but only if it is flawlessly executed, which is not easy to do.

Adrian Weidmann

The execution challenges for click-and-collect outlined by Mr. Bajorek are insightful and valid. The issue of store format and point-of-sale were of particular interest. Having made special orders from both Lowe’s and Home Depot, the experience has been anything but special. In every case I’ve had to wait at least 10 minutes to have someone case down the order, find it somewhere on the loading dock and then get the merchandise delivered from the bowels of the store to the check-out counter. During this time, I’ve had to stand and continually dodge other patrons and their carts. Since these orders have already been paid for, as a confirmed customer of what are typically high ticket items, I’ve now been relegated to a bystander — not a valued customer.

Creating a special location at the front of the store with comfortable seating would go a long way to acknowledging and validating me as a valued customer.

Mark Heckman

As big box retailers make a concerted effort to shrink the physical store footprint (like many are currently doing) BOPIS becomes the link to the “Long Tail” of products that may not be carried everyday on the shelves due to the lack of space in that smaller format.

Selecting the right products to keep on hand in the store and those that are relegated to online is a topic that not many are addressing and I believe to be key in the program working for the shopper.

A second vital component of this plan is the ease and the speed of ordering through the BOPIS system whether the shopper is already in the store or at home or office via an e-commerce site. Like any new shopper offering, I would start small and test receptivity to both products and processes and build a system that is ultra customer-centric. If brick-and-mortar retailers are to continue to thrive, BOPIS is an offering they must get right.

Ken Morris
This is a people, process and technology challenge for retailers to execute this flawlessly as that is what it needs to be — without flaw. It needs to work in harmony. Retailers need to focus on all four of the execution areas above, as disappointing customers with poor execution has the potential to alienate them. The reality is that most retailers are not executing BOPIS very well. According to a recent study, this is a real issue, as 60 percent of click-and-collect orders placed on Cyber Monday had problems. The root problem is bigger than the execution challenges above, it is the technology that retailers are using to support the omnichannel experience. We call it “faux omnichannel.” Many retailers have taken the “just get something done” approach to deliver a seamless customer experience that transcends channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a faux omnichannel model that doesn’t execute as promised and has the risk of disappointing customers. According to BRP’s 2016 POS Survey, while 60 percent of retailers indicate they have implemented “inventory visibility across channels,” 80 percent of those retailers indicate that the system “needs improvement.” Saddled with legacy systems that are not designed to… Read more »
Herb Sorensen

All of the above. Note to the entire self-service brick-and-mortar industry: You have managed trillions as merchant warehousemen with customers serving themselves (stock-picking.) There is nothing in your history that gives you any real experience in volume ITEM stock-picking. Managing pallets isn’t even close.

Just saying! You and your team have NONE of the special skills required for BOPIS, it is a STRANGE beast in your world.

Pharmacy window pickup generates massive profits. This BOPIS has been around for a long time, and has been very successful. You think you are going to sell bread like that?

Ed Dunn
Ed Dunn
5 months 5 hours ago

The Walmart photo of their BOPIS implementation is a massive fail.

For a smart-format store, the cash wrap can serve as an additional function for BOPIS, but for a big box it is best to position BOPIS near the inventory/loading dock area and allow cars to drive up. No different than furniture pickup or lumber pickup.

Bob Amster

I am in agreement with all of the previous comments and therefore I will add an additional perspective. The heretofore much passed-by RFID technology is a critical component of the whole process described above. Retailers don’t want to send customers to pick up an item that isn’t there and RFID is the technology that can confirm it in real time. Even then, a person has to find the product, confirm it’s there back to system, label it and put it aside.

And second, are retailers planning on spending more labor (money) to complete the loop on true (and not “faux”) omnichannel retailing? This is not a free lunch.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

Two challenges that go hand-in-hand in executing are number 2, Retraining Associates and  number 4, Store Format.

Associates can not be effective at meeting customer pickup expectations if the pickup area is not designed for efficiency and positive engagement. Conversely, a clean and efficient pickup area will never compensate for staff equipped with just a cashier mentality and skills.

The number 5 challenge is missing from the list. The greatest challenge for brick-and-mortar stores in executing BOPIS is real-time inventory management at the specific SKU (size, style, color) on the store shelf. None of the others matter if the item is not at the specific location when the customer arrives.

Without RFID or similar technology, BOPIS is virtually impossible using store stock to fulfill pickup.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

Execution: a combination of inventory and associates is the immediate concern. The larger and longer-term question is the role of the store in an omnichannel world. This will become a competitive differentiator in the battle for consumers — smaller, flexible, modular, entertaining and experiential.

Tony Orlando
BOPIS seems like a solution to gain back sales lost online, but for me it is impossible. I have a small footprint and even with the best equipment for ordering, the execution to complete this is strangled by the design of my store and many others. If someone with money wanted to do this properly, they could invest in a state-of-the-art store that focuses strongly on BOPIS, and less on conventional, and I believe it would do well. Cooler space to keep orders safe for pickup and properly scanned bags for non-perishables need to be married together quickly to get the food out to the pickup area, and it takes good logistics and a safe place to have the customers park. A remodel would be needed if you really wanted to do this properly, so for me it would be difficult at best. We do a great job of custom meat orders that can be paid ahead for pickup, and also catering to go which grows every year, so in a sense we already do BOPIS on those two fronts, but any additional services would be difficult for me, due to lack of storage for grocery orders. Excellent article, and… Read more »
Karen McNeely

Home Depot actually does an excellent job of execution of BOPIS. Their website has an as-reliable-as-any inventory status by store, so the consumer can easily see where their merchandise is in stock. Orders are processed quickly and a notice is sent when the order is complete. The customer can opt when ordering to pick up at the service desk or the pro desk. The only way it could be better is if they added drive-up pickup, but I believe they do offer priority parking for online pickup. If it isn’t available in-store there is also free shipping to home or the store.

Flawless execution is also important. I tried Target’s service once and they got the order wrong, so after waiting in line at the service desk I still had to go to the department and hunt down the item on my own. Menards charges a premium for the service, and pickup was still time consuming, so I doubt it will take off there unless they improve their performance.

There’s a huge potential for retailers who execute this well.

Ken Silay
Ken Silay
5 months 4 hours ago
In December, 2014, I posted an article on LinkedIn entitled “It’s 2017, is any retailer completely Omnichannel?” The premise of the article is that there are three key basic capabilities that must be in place to be able to accommodate the new customer experience and they are not easy. First, in agreement with this article, inventory accuracy (i.e. RFID) is required or you are faking BOPIS. Second, information from all current channels must be in one place for quick, effective access or your customers/associates only work with a part of the customer story. Third, a robust store network that is capable of managing the growing number of transactions and devices that will be a part of the Omni-channel landscape is essential or network challenges will have your associates and customers running from your omnichannel capability in droves. I agree with the article that process and training are absolutely important, but not as important as the elements of the foundation. Time has passed for us to think differently about the future of retail. We cannot determine the future by rearranging the present. If we don’t stop thinking about channels and start thinking about a new customer experience and the potential of… Read more »
Vahe Katros
5 months 3 hours ago
I think you might want to add some discussion around strategy and change management. These two areas have their own structure, and since what’s happening is really a major shift in how people buy and the business model of retail, why not? Retail follows a few cycles, tech cycles (minor and major) and business feature/model cycles. Tech enables something new, innovators try to compete with new business features, and fast followers hope to jump on a bandwagon when it’s time. When platform changes occur, business models can change and that challenges two decision making frameworks in retail: a. Is it a nice to have or a need to have (point solution thinking)?b. Fast follower thinking. In this kind of change, incrementalism needs to be replaced by transformational thinking or you become a retailer that is no longer aligned with the times. It happens all the time and very few companies survive generational shifts. So I suppose another execution challenge might be working with the private equity firm to manage liquidation because for many incumbents, the old New England expression applies: “You can’t get there from here.” When there is a major change in the boxes and arrows that make up… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

Or BOPIS combines the worst of online (not actually seeing the item you’re buying) with the inconvenience of brick and mortar (actually taking the time an effort to go get something); suffice it to say I’m not as big a fan of this as WayfinD seems to be, but as this is meant to be a discussion piece more than an advocacy article, I’ll answer the question. I think #1 is most key … simply not setting aside enough space and staff to properly execute the strategy.

Of course you can argue all four are really variations on the same theme: treating BOPIS as some afterthought to the sales process rather than a key element of it.

Ralph Jacobson

#2: Retraining store staff is absolutely critical and will be the one obstacle to ensuring a successful program execution. This process needs to seamless and intuitive for shoppers. Store staff needs to be flexible with special shopper needs, and agile when challenges arise. This is far easier said than done.

Of course HQ management needs to layout the entire process, end to end for store management to absorb. From there, store management need to set the example of how this can work productively for the entire store, in every department. Consistent follow up is also key.

Steve Kohler
Steve Kohler
5 months 54 minutes ago

The elephant in the room is inventory accuracy and unknown stock-outs. These plague both online and in-store customer satisfaction. BOPIS may just amplify customer service problems if the traditional inventory reporting processes and methods are followed. New ways of determining inventory availability, allocating inventory, and tracking inventory movement at the item level are needed.

(If you are thinking about RFID, forget about it — proven massive fail already on the item level…).

Seeta Hariharan
5 months 53 minutes ago

For a click and collect experience to be truly seamless for the customer, all of the factors addressed in the article need to be part of the retailer’s delivery architecture (including people, processes, and infrastructure). Furthermore, these points must be seamless and able to meet and exceed user expectations for the service.

Trying to deliver a BOPIS strategy built on dated technology platforms, uncertain inventory, and multi-tasking staff are major challenges for many retailers. But to truly improve BOPIS execution, Retailers need to focus on making the customer experience exceptional.

Walmart’s solution lets online shoppers know the exact date an item is available to pick up in-store or at a local FedEx office. Walmart will even text customers to alert them when their item is available. This example highlights the points addressed in the article — retail architecture, sales associates, and supply chain — are working together to deliver a successful unified channel experience for customers. At the end of the day, it’s still about delivering exceptional customer service, regardless of whether that happens during an in store purchase or online to pick up in store. There should be no discernible difference, except ease and satisfaction for the consumer.

George Hanson
George Hanson
5 months 39 minutes ago
As we have studied this functionality in detail, one thing is perfectly clear, if you cannot implement and run at almost perfect execution, you will anger more consumers than not offering it at all. It has to be super easy and hit all the consumers expectations of saving them time, if it doesn’t, not only will they not try it again, but in today’s social sharing world, everyone will hear about it. This also is much more than just the supporting systems. It requires the discipline of flawless execution on the part of the store staff who must respond within the given, reasonable and expected turn around times. I don’t know how many articles like this I have read where someone documents their experience and most could have walked into the store, found the item on the shelf, checked out and left the store in less time than finding where they have to go to get the item, stand in line there, then have a long wait while the clerk is trying to retrieve the item so conveniently set aside for them. This may only work if the item was so rare and nearly impossible to find on the shelf… Read more »
Jonathan Spooner
5 months 5 minutes ago

Before any of these challenges can be addressed, there has to a be a change in how retailers treat in-store and online inventory. The two facets need to be merged and treated simply as “Inventory” that can fulfill on any channel.

In the early days of e-commerce, separate silos were set up to safeguard in-store P&Ls compared to the ballooning costs of setting up a web department. But now in the world of omnichannel, these divisions are impractical and detrimental to enterprise inventory management.

Matt Talbot

I think inventory management is the most prominent BOPIS execution challenge. Hence, that is the area retailers should put the most focus on.

There are several areas in a big box format for retailers to test storing “paid for” inventory. However, these tests must be tracked closely to determine which areas are most successful. Photos, documented metrics and location data is critical. Every square foot in a retail environment is incredibly valuable, particularly to merchandisers. Striking the right balance between effective merchandising and BOPIS efficiency is the key.

Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon
4 months 26 days ago

Inventory management is the first essential piece of the puzzle that has to be in place and have all the kinks associated with that worked out for Buy Online Pickup In-Store to work. Also, all parties involved need to be on the same page for this system to flow like a well-oiled machine to deliver a fast and friendly in-store experience with order pickup.

"Since store payrolls are unlikely to grow in a flat sales environment, this trend is eroding one of the key reasons why shoppers visit brick-and-mortar locations in the first place."
"BOPIS is both an execution challenge and a huge opportunity to drive sales."
"Like any new shopper offering, I would start small and test receptivity to both products and processes and build a system that is ultra customer-centric."

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