By John Bajorek
The only reason for time, Albert Einstein once observed, is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. While it still holds true for the rest of life, shopping is another story.
Consider a recent eleventh-hour gift purchase. I had located the couple’s online registry and planned to pick up the gift at the store before the out of town wedding. Only after giving ample personal information, my credit card number and my email, did the store break the unbearable news: Not only would I still need to wait in line to pay at the store, but my online coupon wouldn’t work, either. My search for a paper coupon ended in vain and the time-consuming hassle inside the store left me frustrated and annoyed.
This store supposedly had a BOPIS strategy, yet execution fell far short of what BOPIS should (and can) be. A combination of the time-saving convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of in-store shopping. The problem started because the store couldn’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. What once required multiple steps must be compressed into a single moment. Shoppers are no longer willing to bear the burden of fulfillment and can’t stand wasting time. Online retailers effectively exploit this frustration; it’s time for stores to do the same.
The bar is exceedingly high. The consumer’s mental and physical journey from a retailer’s website to the point of fulfillment must be seamless. We live in a new era of higher consumer expectations – 94% of our respondents have made a purchase from Amazon. Over a third have made seven or more online purchases within the past three months. Stores must embrace the burden of fulfillment to better compete against online retailers. Regardless of which pickup concepts stores choose to invest in, all stores must begin by retooling inventory management, retraining associates, and investing in technology to accommodate the hybrid purchase model of online shopping and in-store pickup.
This is less about strategy than execution. For stores considering an aggressive BOPIS roll-out, 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, this is a particularly big challenge. It’s difficult for retailers to get the merchandising side of operations to give up space. The challenge is clear: Where does this often “paid for” inventory exist until it is picked up? How is it made readily accessible to consumers?
2. Retraining Associates
Have well-trained associates that are dedicated to BOPIS. People will either make or break pickup execution. Low satisfaction with retail associates (who were rated as an appealing aspect of in-store shopping by just 31% of respondents in another WD study) is one of the things keeping consumers out of stores in the first place. Expectations are higher for stores than for fast food; stores will have to do better than “welcome, may I take your order?” in their execution of kiosks and drive-thru to give consumers a gratifying experience. BOPIS consumers have self-selected as being short on time and patience. Flawless execution and expertise will enable cross-sell and upsell opportunities at or better than achieved online. Invest in solid training and dedicated employees or see the best-designed execution fall flat.
To be a fulfillment center, the point-of-sale must be intuitive and accessible. Retailers must readjust traditional store formats to accommodate the hybrid purchase models of online shopping and in-store pickup. Do you need 50 check-out 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? The low-hanging fruit (back of store, right next to the inventory) is in this case also the rotten fruit. It is the least popular of all the concepts we tested, with a paltry 24% of consumers finding it appealing and about an equal number finding it not appealing at all. Slightly higher hanging but much preferred by consumers (49% appealing to just 7% not appealing) is the front of store. Beyond that, things get more complicated, but good design would make all the difference.
4. Store Format
Good design is the key to reorganizing store space across all BOPIS formats. In-store and offsite solutions are the most straight forward, requiring minimal investment in renovations, although for big box chain-store retailers, it may require relocating fixtures. Just-outside-the-store BOPIS is another story, possibly requiring major work and running into zoning issues. Drive-thru, kiosk, and curbside pickup will all have to contend with weather and traffic flow. Consumers who have used BOPIS to avoid wasting time will not tolerate gridlock in the parking lot. A further challenge is keeping everything in line with branding. How are new spaces, whether lockers or kiosks, thematically connected with the store? How can they be made to “feel” consistent with the overall brand? The challenge of managing space is formidable, but the payoff of getting it right could be huge.