“BOPIS fulfillment saved retail stores,” remembers Sid Holland, former Senior Product Manager at Best Buy Canada. “During lockdown, contactless pickup—that little table in the entryway with orders packed up on it—was literally the only way that many stores could serve their customers.”
While many stores have evolved their in-store pickup operations since the early days of the pandemic, BOPIS is here to stay.
The number of leading retailers with physical locations offering BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) increased by over 500% from 2019 to 2020, the majority of which are still going strong.
Overall, 64% of shoppers today use BOPIS service, an increase of 23% since early 2021.
This increased demand makes a BOPIS retail model more than just another fulfillment type. It also provides significant opportunities for businesses to meet customer expectations and maximize the impact of in-store pickup as an important factor in product search and discovery.
Why BOPIS Fulfillment?
Before we jump in, it’s worth looking at how we got here. What are the benefits that buying online and picking up at a physical store affords to both shoppers and retailers? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just pick one fulfillment model or the other?
These questions are valid, but all signs point to today’s customers preferring omnichannel retail.
Online convenience is a big factor, but shoppers also use ecommerce sites to perform in-depth research on product specifications and variations before they set foot in the store. They know that most product information is available online. After all, a retailer’s ecommerce website provides a more comprehensive view of a massive selection of products and variations—many more than a retail store or showroom can physically contain.
BOPIS also allows shoppers to see what’s actually available in their physical location. In fact, 71% of customers say that it is important to view store inventory information, and 39% are unlikely to visit a store if that information is not available on the ecommerce site.
Having inventory information online expedites and enables an in-store transaction, especially in cases where shoppers need an item as soon as possible (“do they have toilet plungers in stock?”) or want to physically compare the item to possible alternatives in person.
The advantages of BOPIS don’t only extend to the customer. Retailers can also reap the benefits of an omnichannel approach by adding BOPIS to their offerings:
- Savings on overhead. Leveraging the labor already in store saves the business costly shipping and logistics (though there are trade-offs here, as we’ll explore in the next section).
- Movement of in-store stock. BOPIS benefits stores by allowing them to move inventory in their physical location rather than being “bypassed” by local orders fulfilled by a warehouse.
- Potential upsells. Research shows that nearly 85% of shoppers make an additional purchase in store when coming in to pick up an online order.
- Lower cart abandonment rates. BOPIS customers are less likely to abandon a cart for common reasons like balking on shipping costs or backorder notifications.
There are also variations of BOPIS fulfillment that help improve the customer experience and enable conversions.
For example, ROBIS (reserve online, buy in store) or RPU (reserved pickup) allows the shopper to reserve the item but not pay until they come into the store. BORIS (buy online, return in store), on the other hand allows the shopper to return an item from home delivery to a physical location instead of paying for return shipping.
With benefits for both sides of the market, it’s fairly safe to predict that BOPIS fulfillment and its variations are here for good. But where is it going next, and how does it relate to product discovery?
BOPIS and Product Discovery: Optimizing for KPIs
The more we see businesses adopt BOPIS, the more we see that it’s more than just a fulfillment option. In fact, BOPIS presents opportunities for retailers to optimize for business KPIs by providing a more seamless shopping experience overall.
On many ecommerce sites, customers have the option to filter items by delivery method or location just as they would by color or size. When paired with an AI-backed product discovery platform, retailers can use BOPIS to optimize for KPIs by having product rankings, recommendations, and category pages take store availability into account.
Leveraging local inventory data at retailers that offer BOPIS can help merchandising teams capture urgency and buyer demand.
There are several ways that this combination of inventory management and product discovery might provide a better customer experience and drive critical business metrics:
- Up-to-date inventory information available on the retailer’s website for a given store location helps bring shoppers into the store.
- Local inventory alerts (“only 3 left in stock!”) can increase conversion rate and RPV.
- Store-specific recommendations based on each location’s demographics and affinities can provide hyper-localized personalization.
- Optimized search results can bury items that are not available at a specific retail store and make appropriate recommendations for alternatives.
Imagine that a customer is looking to purchase a video game and wants to pick it up tonight in their local superstore.
However, the latest hit title is out of stock at that location.
If that latest title is featured prominently at the top of the customer’s category pages online, this reminder is more likely to cause the customer to bounce off the website and look for the product somewhere else.
Instead, that page could remind them of what other popular games are in stock, improving the chance that the location will make the sale and the customer will be satisfied.
These types of personalizations create a sizable lift in key business metrics. But they depend on an AI solution that can tap into accurate inventory data to offer product-level availability—and that can leverage that data in a way that’s appropriate to each visitor’s individual shopping experience.
AI Equips Retailers for BOPIS and Beyond
Complex inventory management is a fundamental challenge for ecommerce retailers, but it’s also a pioneering opportunity for AI tailored to unique ecommerce needs. Light years beyond a general search engine algorithm scanning for synonyms, a modern discovery platform can leverage specific ecommerce behaviors and inventory data to optimize for customer experience and business KPIs.
With BOPIS, the pandemic taught us that omnichannel agility is the touchstone of a future-proof retail strategy. But now we move into a future where omnichannel isn’t new anymore. It’s just normal.
Leading the pack today are the ecommerce brands that build that same agility into their omnichannel strategies—and into their tech stack.
This article originally appeared in 2022 Ecommerce Trends: AI and Omnichannel Experience:
2022 Ecommerce Trends: AI and Omnichannel Experience
In this 38-page PDF, learn how forward-thinking ecommerce retailers are gaining advantage and driving revenue in 2022 by applying three main strategies:
- First-party clickstream data
- Omnichannel product discovery and customer experience