Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

Discussion
Photo: Walmart/Sam's Club
Sep 13, 2017
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Retail Doctor’s Blog.

What if all the BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) distraction is really saying the in-store experience isn’t worth your time?

Enter Amazon.com and its two-minute snack pickup for students ordering on their smartphones. Amazon’s pickup lockers are even being put in other businesses.

It’s all part of a plan, I believe, to train us to forego the cash register, like in their Amazon GO prototype in Seattle.

Others are following suite. With Walmart’s Pickup Tower, customers scan a barcode and purchases arrives in about 45 seconds. The message: Leave as quickly as you can.

Recently, I received a question for my Friday Facebook LIVE video asking how part-time employees can connect with customers who are in a hurry and “just need this” to convert the visit into a bigger sale.

We’re seeing a push to click and collect, not browse and experience. That’s part of the transformation of stores into retail products warehouses. If you don’t offer something more inside your store, shoppers may as well skip the trip to your warehouse — uh, store — and buy direct from the manufacturer’s online warehouse. Nike, for one, is doing just that by going hard after direct-to-consumer.

Three steps to avoid turning your store into a warehouse:

  1. Be the opposite of click and collect: Customers may come in thinking they need just one thing, but an engaging conversation and a variety of products and displays can lead them to buy something else. Younger employees can’t default to what they’ve heard all their lives: “Can I help you?”
  1. Be the opposite of ask and receive: Shoppers respond to and process what they learned from a trusted human advisor more deeply than from a webpage. Particularly for premium items, employees have to understand they’re helping craft a lifestyle, not selling a hoodie.
  1. Be the opposite of stack it high and let it fly. Having more product isn’t your competitive edge. Having a crew who are relentlessly trained how to sell will.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. Yes, digital tools can help, but they should help you make more sales in store — not fewer. Find ways in your store to be more human with technology, not less.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is touting the ease and value of in-store pickup ultimately devaluing the in-store experience? How can discovery, engagement and upselling become part of in-store pickup?

Braintrust
"We should be thinking about these more seamless models of commerce as a way to increase the frequency of touch points consumers have with a brand."
"A well-trained associate can provide the same capability as that digital screen to make recommendations!"
"A retailer who doesn’t offer BOPIS is going the way of the dodo bird."

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29 Comments on "Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?"

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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I think Bob’s article hits on a very interesting unintended consequence that retailers will need to come to terms with. There seems to be an un-virtuous cycle happening: retailers cut store staff which leads to poor in-store experience. This causes customers to go online, only to come back to the store to pick up their purchase but with much lower expectations about the store experience.

BOPIS has become an expectation among consumers and retailers need to provide the services customers demand, however turning retail stores into merely distribution points that focus on quick turnaround with no customer engagement is a mistake. Bob is 100 percent right in urging retailers to make engagement part of the in-store pickup experience.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Couldn’t agree more. In many retail segments, there is no substitute for good, knowledgeable, engaging salespeople. If you are buying something other than Tide detergent, you may want to talk to (and learn from) a knowledgeable sales associate.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

I completely agree. How in-store pickup is staged in the store is critical to the retailer seeing an upsell benefit from that customer visit. Walmart’s tower may provide speed, but does it encourage a customer to stay and shop for more? Plus, you’ve hit on one other critical factor — the store associate, who is so often overlooked in the experience equation. It astounds me how easily some retailers can miss this point — those associates are your brand ambassadors and they have the biggest impact on the in-store experience.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

BOPIS can have an impact on customer service especially in those stores where payroll is being stretched to manage the “omnichannel” process instead of the shopper in the store. I’m thinking particularly of department stores (Macy’s, for one) whose higher-touch service standards have slipped while they are asking the same sales associates to cover additional tasks.

But there is another kind of “customer service” (in self-selection stores like Target and many others) that really depends on efficient restocking of fixtures and quick checkout. I don’t see BOPIS having the same kind of stressful effect on these stores’ service standards.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

The store experience is changing. BOPIS is only the start of this. Subscriptions, smart reordering systems and rapid door deliveries are all driving the changing evolution of shopping. The real question here is, why do we have to have a physical store when we can enjoy an online one that is faster, easier and costs less? In the new retail, everyone wins from lower prices, faster availability and a shopping experience that is easier and hassle free. No more lines, dragging the kids to the store, bags to carry or hunting down parking spaces in exposed weather. Who wouldn’t want this?

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust
Bob, I like the way you end this: “Find ways in your store to be more human with technology, not less.” This is EXACTLY what the end effect of BOPIS should bring retailers and customers. Face it, consumers buy online. What BOPIS does is give them options. They can still webroom online, and then go into the nearby store where their order will be waiting for them and try on the clothing, shoes or get a sense of the size, feel, shape or sturdy durability of that item that looked so amazing on the screen. What BOPIS does for retail is that it can reduce returns. I don’t have to order three pairs of shoes to try on and return two of them. It gives consumers more options (flexibility is a good thing). It means even small footprint pop-up format stores can provide shoppers with that personalized experience and human touch that online does not provide. And there are at least eight studies that show that on average 58 percent of customers buy additional products when they come in to do a pickup. The “oh yeah, I need batteries for this,” or “that belt really matches these new shoes” purchases.… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

It’s the new trend as evidenced by the new Nordstrom in WEHO- SABIOS. Shop anywhere but in our stores.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Love it or hate it, BOPIS is a real option that many customers value based on their situational needs.

BOPIS can and should NOT be viewed as an “either/or” scenario. If customers are pressed for time, BOPIS can provide a convenient alternative that maintains a relationship with a store rather than forego a sale to an e-tailer. BOPIS does not have to devalue experience, it can be a complimentary option based upon the situational needs of the shopper.

If customers increasingly choose BOPIS in a store, it is a clear red flag that there is something wrong with the store fundamentals of experience. Bob has highlighted all the right essentials of trained staff and creating a positive store experience. If stores can’t differentiate their experience, BOPIS won’t save them.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Bob makes some excellent points about the need to improve in-store experiences. I would submit that larger and larger stores housing ever-greater numbers of line extensions have turned the shopping experience into a nightmare. Time is a limited commodity and when consumers can’t find what they want, they sour on the in-store experience. That’s not going to change by adding more skilled personnel. Grocers need to take a hard look at their product offerings and store layouts first.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

BOPIS may in fact be the store’s single greatest opportunity to engage, interact with and impress store shoppers. While convenience is of course important, a shopper should never be encouraged to interact with a kiosk that allows them to whisk their items away without ever engaging an associate. They should be forced to engage with an informed and empowered associate. If the associate is empowered with the customer’s history, loyalty, value and related items, the experience can be of extremely high value to both the shopper and the brand. Retailers, beware of failing to capitalize on this awesome opportunity to engage!

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Let’s call BOPIS what it is — a more convenient way to buy. When I want to come into the store to browse, experience, etc., I will. In the meantime, if I can go to your website and buy online and an hour later — or on the way home — pick up my merchandise without having to wait in line to check out, I will opt for that. The retailers have taught (trained) us to use this version of convenience. Those that like it, use it.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Is BOPIS ultimately devaluing the in-store experience? No, as long as retailers don’t make that what the store experience is all about. I really don’t see smart retailers letting that happen. Smart retailers will arm their employees with tools that will help them serve the customer, answer questions, communicate about products, curate and style as needed — even when a customer is simply in the store to pick-up an order. And that’s my 2 cents.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

There’s nothing new under the sun. The basic fact is that we toyed with staff reductions and self-service, but there is no substitute in most retail businesses for knowledgeable, trained sales associates — period.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Absolutely! I couldn’t agree with Bob’s premise more. When brands begin to promote to attract customers who only buy on deal, they are acknowledging that their offering does not warrant the full retail price from all their customers all the time. When retailers finally move the bread and milk to the front of the store next to the express or self checkout lanes, they are acknowledging that shoppers don’t want their entire “store experience” all the time. BOPIS is simply acknowledging that for some purchases some customers do not want the store experience at all.

I think it is important to make a distinction between BOPIS and home delivery here too. Home delivery offers a benefit of added convenience. I can shop at midnight and never leave my house to complete a purchase. BOPIS does not offer that convenience. I still have to go to the store. So the “benefit” of BOPIS is simply the avoidance of a negative — the full store experience. Retailers should be paying very close attention to which customers use BOPIS and for which purchases. They are telling retailers what they really don’t like about their stores.

Stefan Weitz
BrainTrust

I somewhat disagree — fighting the trend for more efficient shopping (especially for commodity items) is like chasing windmills. We should be thinking about these more seamless models of commerce as a way to increase the frequency of touch points consumers have with a brand, thereby potentially increasing the size of the overall share of wallet. I can imagine little more frustrating than heading into my local Best Buy to pick up my portable speaker for a party that starts in 45 minutes at which point I’m subjected to a salesperson trying to engage with me. I used BOPIS for a reason — respect it and I will keep using BOPIS at your store. If you add friction to a process that is designed to eliminate it, your customers will revolt.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
6 days 6 hours ago

Lots of good and smart comments relating BOPIS to the in-store experience. I agree that, in general, the in-store retail customer experience is quite bad. However, there is much to BOPIS that has nothing to do with the in-store experience other than friction.

As we have written and maintained for a while now, TIME is the new loyalty currency. This is every bit the factor that a bad in-store experience is, if not a bigger one. We all have more demands on our time, more options with which to fill it and, thanks to digital, we have the ability to be much more selective about where we invest time.

Smart retailers will understand this and appreciate the value of contextual data, which unlocks the insights as to which customers are more time-sensitive.

Unfortunately, retailers are very much still self-centered rather than customer-centered. Pursuing strategies aligned with the latter will help rationalize and leverage new fulfillment options like BOPIS and others.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I completely agree that store experiences are often below par, and this may well push shoppers to use BOPIS. However, I don’t think this is an either/or debate. Target’s newer small format has a strong emphasis on online order collection and provides a much more engaging experience. In the UK, John Lewis uses click-and-collect to drive traffic into great looking stores that encourage yet more browsing and buying.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I debated which dramatic opening to use in my response to Bob’s insightful advice; please check one:

  1. Customer engagement is dead. Long live customer engagement! ___
  2. It’s the EXPERIENCE Stupid! ___

Whatever happened to customer connection, caring, service, education and love? When did we start hating and avoiding customers? Are we really at a point where what human beings long for is one-click, immediate gratification and never having to engage with other humans? BOPIS, especially if you don’t even have to get out of your car, doesn’t deserve to be called “shopping,” at the very most it’s “ordering.” And furthermore, if I never hear the word “omnichannel” again, it will be too soon!

Keep up the good work Bob, you may save us all.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Sure, the increasing popularity of BOPIS suggests that the in-store experience is lacking. Why? Because grocers have not invested enough in making their stores inviting and engaging. So they miss some purchases that the BOPIS shopper would have made. However, savvy grocers should offer this option to their shoppers, who would go elsewhere if they truly want to buy online and pick up in store.

Meanwhile, the rise of BOPIS also says something about this type of shopper. To be kind, they are busy people juggling home and work responsibilities. BOPIS alleviates the time crunch. To be unkind, they are simply too lazy. You should make time to carefully and selectively shop for the food that nourishes your family. What is more important than that?

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

A retailer who doesn’t offer BOPIS is going the way of the dodo bird. It is a fact of life for contemporary retailers. Instead of thinking the glass is half empty why not consider the glass as half full? A BOPIS event is the alternative to buying online and having it shipped to your home … not much experience there. BOPIS brings traffic into the store, past signage, past greeters and then there is the potential for browsing. The reason consumers use BOPIS is because THEY WANT TO. If a retailer did not offer it, it would be an experience NEGATIVE. BOPIS is great in every way and retailers should evolve it, not deny its value.

Jeff Sward
Guest

Shopping is situational. Sometimes you want to cruise and browse and sometimes you just want to grab and go. It’s the HOW of each retailer’s execution that will determine whether BOPIS adds to or subtracts from that retailer’s brand promise.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

I think BOPIS is an absolute requirement for consumers these days. It’s expected. The critical task for retailers is to stage the pickup area in a way that provides convenience plus encouragement to shop for more items. Walmart’s tower goes to one extreme — speed and convenience of a quick in-and-out visit to the store. Kohl’s has tried a different approach with digital signage at the point of pickup designed to suggest on-screen recommendations of other, complimentary, items you could buy while in the store.

Techniques such as this can help provide that upsell encouragement retailers need to extract from a BOPIS visit. And don’t forget about associates! A well-trained associate can provide the same capability as that digital screen to make recommendations!

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Unfortunately, most in-store experiences pre-BOPIS were nothing special. To blame BOPIS for the demise of the store is analogous to faulting icebergs for the Titanic disaster. Retailers need to step back and evaluate every customer touch point or moment of truth and then manage the hell out of each, including the BOPIS interaction. We need to give customers a reason to come into stores. If done properly, BOPIS can result in incremental business. Click-and-collect followed by high margin in-store shopping at the time of pickup.

Roy White
BrainTrust

The discussion article raises a key question relative to the future of the brick-and-mortar store: how to harness digital sales to build in-store transactions. Is it extensive training of store associates staffing the pick-up point? New configurations of the store that encourage pick-up customers to shop the store?

By way of history, drive-thru windows at fast-food outlets do not seem hurt, but it’s two separate businesses. Indeed, the drive-thru has taken on a life of its own, seemingly separate from food for consumption inside the outlet. Drive-thru pharmacies have evolved similarly; the patient doesn’t have a real opportunity for interaction with pharmacy staff, but does enjoy convenience. On the other hand, a GMDC study of several years ago indicated that there is a very real benefit to store sales of customers walking to the back of the unit to reach the pharmacy. That is sacrificed with drive-thru.

It would seem important to integrate brick-and-mortar stores with digital selling, but there are no really good models in place to follow that will make this happen.

Cristian Grossmann
BrainTrust

Like it or not, customers clearly value the BOPIS option which is very convenient for necessities. People who just need to grab essentials like dish soap and toothpaste don’t necessarily have the time to shop around. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t want to in other trips. This article presents some good tips for making the in-store experience more engaging by adding the human element they can’t get online. Frontline employees are the brand ambassadors for any company, so it’s critical to arm them with the knowledge and personality of your brand. Customers won’t remember their click and collect experience, but they will remember the helpful employee who greeted them at the door and made them laugh at the register.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

BOPIS is a convenience, but will not destroy the store experience. I have used BOPIS at Walmart, yet I still visit the store for some purchases. The kinds of items that I would use BOPIS for are those where I would run in and run out anyway without having much of a store experience. However, the retailer to retain the in-store experience must have associates that know there products and can provide assistance and advice for the customers. If the associates can provide engagement in the store, upselling will be possible.

Vahe Katros
Guest

BOPIS always struck me as an extension of the supply chain vs a demand-side strategy. A demand side strategy might yield other service solutions like “buy online, pick up at hotel, or school, or name your relevant touch point. If you apply a demand side (customer side/shopper centric) mindset, then BOPIS is a tool to design new patterns. Retailers with stores have a great opportunity to engage the BOPIS shoppers to understand more, but it’s so much work intellectualizing and innovating around the demand side, never mind all the scripting and training around micro segments. BUT…I loved this article! Thanks Retail Dr. Bob!

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

As a store owner, BOPIS for me has been around since the store was opened, only in a different way. We do not have the proper infrastructure to pull off full-blown BOPIS, but have been preparing meat, deli, bakery and catering orders for pickup forever. The difference today is that now customers can order these same items online, via e-mail and still over the phone, and we always have it ready when they get here. The other change is that we can have it rung through with their credit card or charge account and there is very little time spent waiting around to get the product.

This is my version of BOPIS. There are not pull-up lanes in my plaza and a platform for bringing groceries into this equation without clogging up my cooler space, so it is the best we can do for now. This is personal for me, and I make sure my customers get exactly what they want. We have a lot of repeat orders from customers for their next trip to the store. Have a great day everyone.

Manish Chowdhary
BrainTrust

We can also look at BOPIS as a way to: (1) increase online conversions; and (2) bring the online shopper into the store.

Consider a consumer who is shopping online for an item they need today — .e.g. gear for tomorrow’s fishing trip, or a gift for tonight’s party hosts. Three retailers have the item they want, and at the same price. A store that offers Click & Collect is poised to win. This consumer isn’t deciding whether or not to come to *your* store. He or she is avoiding the drive from one store, to the next, to the next. Or, they want to make sure the item is in stock before driving 20 minutes.

Once in the store, as Mr. Phibbs and others have mentioned here, a retailer has the opportunity to delight the customer, and entice them back to the store for an enjoyable shopping experience in the future. If we bring an online shopper into the store, we also have another opportunity to deepen the customer’s connection and loyalty to the brand.

BOPIS may be degrading the in-store experience for some. It’s also an opportunity to bring the online shopper into your store, instead of your competitors’.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"We should be thinking about these more seamless models of commerce as a way to increase the frequency of touch points consumers have with a brand."
"A well-trained associate can provide the same capability as that digital screen to make recommendations!"
"A retailer who doesn’t offer BOPIS is going the way of the dodo bird."

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