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What is BOPIS? This growing shopping method is exactly what the phrase suggests. "Buy online pick up in store" is an option for consumers to buy online via ecommerce sites but choose a brick-and-mortar location to pick up their goods.

With BOPIS orders, consumers get the benefits of online checkout and all the convenience it offers. They can shop at midnight in their pajamas, browse items they need from mobile devices during breaks at work, or fulfill their grocery list at a local store while waiting in the school pickup line. Once they make the purchase and set a pickup location, they simply have to show up at the scheduled time to get their items.

BOPIS shopping has been around for a while but has become increasingly popular during the pandemic. At a time when many people wanted to avoid in-person activities, BOPIS made it possible for consumers to access the goods they needed and kept many retailers in business.

How Does BOPIS Work?

When set up correctly, BOPIS is a fairly seamless process that enhances customer experience and creates online shoppers out of customers that might normally only visit your physical store.

The ability to buy online and pick up in store can also capture the interest of people searching online for items who have never shopped with you.

Here's a step-by-step look at how BOPIS works in most cases:

  • Consumers shop online: They may navigate to your store website or find you after searching for a product online. Some might be in the research stage of a buying journey but find that your ecommerce website has a deal they can't pass up, especially since they have the convenience of curbside pickup at a local store.
  • The customer completes the shopping cart process: When someone finds something they want on your ecommerce site and sees an option to pick it up in the store, they can proceed with the online purchase. In most cases, the shopping cart experience is the same as it would be for any other purchase, except the customer chooses "pick up in store" for the shipping option.
  • The customer selects a store location: If you have multiple physical locations, they choose the location where they want to pick up their item.
  • Real-time inventory automation lets customers know when to pick up the order: If the item is in the on-site inventory for the pick-up location, the customer might be able to pick it up the same day. If not, they may need to wait a few days while the inventory is transferred.
  • The customer picks up the items: The customer arrives at the store and picks up the items to complete the purchase.
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Benefits of BOPIS Strategies for Stores and Consumers

Buy online pick up in store models offer a number of benefits for consumers and retailers. Here are a few reasons consumers are choosing this method of shopping in increasing numbers:

  • Reduced shipping costs: Most retailers offer this service for free, even if the item has to be shipped from a warehouse to the pick-up location. Choosing to pick up items at a retail store saves consumers money over home delivery options.
  • The flexibility of additional shipping options: With more options to choose from, consumers can shop with unique needs in mind. Someone might work and feel uncomfortable with online shopping if the package might sit near their front door for hours until they get home. The buy online pick up in store option provides extra peace of mind.
  • Consumers can shop items in stock in multiple locations: Even if they'd prefer to come to a store and get their items, consumers using BOPIS options aren't locked into store inventory for a single location.
  • It may be easier to return in-store: Consumers might find it easier to return an item to the store where they picked it up if necessary.

The benefits of BOPIS for retailers include:

  • Increased traffic and sales, online and off: When consumers can shop all your store locations and your distribution center at once on your website, you're in a position to better compete with giants such as Amazon. Free shipping to store or pick up in store options can bring more people to your site or foster returning shoppers. It also gives people a reason to drive to your physical storefront, which can also increase offline sales.
  • Efficient, cost-effective shipping: When you streamline the supply chain for BOPIS, you can reduce the shipping cost to your organization. For example, trucks are already coming from the distribution center to your store, so adding a few BOPIS order items doesn't really cost more.
  • More options for encouraging additional purchases: BOPIS provides more touchpoints with the consumer, which can be a sales opportunity. For example, you might follow up a BOPIS order with shipment tracking information or an email that lets the customer know their order is ready. That email might also include suggestions for other items. For example, "Your Weber grill is ready for pick up. We see you're planning some backyard fun. Check out our yard game selection when you're here—we have a selection of badminton and volleyball sets, plus lots of things for the kids!"
  • An opportunity for stellar customer service: BOPIS options let you show off by creating great customer service. Take time to create seamless processes that support busy customers, and they'll recommend you to others and come back for more.
  • Support for omnichannel commerce: The option to buy online and pick up in the store links ecommerce and physical retail, creating an omnichannel commerce network that can include social media and other channels.

Common Challenges Related to BOPIS Service

BOPIS is not without challenges for retailers. Here are a few areas of concern when considering BOPIS options.

Maintaining accurate inventory records

Good inventory management requires understanding what you have in stock at all locations, including retail stores and distribution pipelines. 

When people pick things up off the shelves in retail locations while others order online, accurate real-time inventory is harder to maintain. For example, someone might put an item in their cart in a retail store while another person buys it online. By the time it comes for order fulfillment for the BOPIS order, the item is actually out of stock at the store and not available for pick up that day.

Integrate order management systems and inventory management software to support the BOPIS option. Use automation to keep people informed about their orders and any changes. 

ROPIS woes

ROPIS is "reserve online pick up in store." With this model, consumers don't buy the item before they come to the store and check it out in person. While this option adds to a positive customer experience and may even increase foot traffic, it can also increase work for your staff without resulting in a sale.

To reduce ROPIS woes, create processes encouraging in-store shopping to capture sales from this store traffic. Train store associates to make other recommendations if the item doesn't turn out to be what the customer wants. Set up your retail store so that the ROPIS customer service area requires customers to pass aisles or displays with potential impulse-buy items.

Staffing to support pickup options

Any retail strategy that supports BOPIS may increase your staffing needs. You'll need people to gather the items at the pickup location and assist customers when they arrive. If you support curbside pickup, you'll need staff to run those items out to cars in the parking lot.

The good news is that additional purchases and sales coupled with savings on shipping fees and costs might balance out a bottom line that includes a few more labor hours. You can also reduce those labor hours with order tracking software that helps automate the process as much as possible by providing self-serve pickup options, such as lockers, for efficient in-store experiences. 

Have You Launched Your BOPIS Option?

A BOPIS model increases functionality for customers and links your ecommerce platform to your brick-and-mortar store. It helps you live up to customer expectations in a world where people are used to shopping via mobile apps and getting instant or almost instant gratification via online retail. 

If you haven't launched a BOPIS service, what's holding you back? Sound off in the comments to tell us why you're avoiding BOPIS or what challenges or wins you've experienced with the model.

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By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.