Why Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) Is The New Standard

As we’ve said before, it’s time for companies to stop thinking about retail and ecommerce as separate categories. It was even #2 on our list of the 21 Most Controversial Things We Said in 2014.

But it won’t be controversial for long. My bet is that by the end of the year, every retailer will be scrambling to merge the two, likely by retraining associates (both in-store and support center) in “Buy Online Pickup in Store” (BOPIS) policies.

That is, if they haven’t already – the list of retailers that offer BOPIS is already long, including such diverse brands as Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Toys “R” Us, Kmart, Apple Stores, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, GameStop, Office Depot, PetSmart, AutoZone, Walgreens, The Home Depot, even Whole Foods.

That’s good company to be in, and it’s likely that at least one of your competitors is on that list. Shouldn’t you be?

Okay, but Will In-Store Pickup Increase Sales?

Improving customer experience is an important goal in its own right, but any retailer would also wonder about the profit potential. Well, don’t worry – the market is there.

Target debuted BOPIS in November of 2013, and by August of 2014, online orders with in-store pickup consistently made up more than 10% of Target’s online sales. Rapid growth in the category and scores of large chains adopting BOPIS policies suggest that Buy Online, Pickup In Store is only going to gain more traction.

But there’s another way that BOPIS can make you money – cross-selling opportunities. Another major retail chain, Macy’s, reports that their customers who buy online and pick up in store ultimately purchase 25% more than they originally intended.

Rapid adoption and cross-selling opportunities? It seems like BOPIS is already a win/win for both retailers and customers, and it will only get more important as the lines between retail channels get even more blurry.

Why BOPIS Is the Omnichannel Gateway

In a true omnichannel scenario, the entire brand functions as a unified ecosystem, and in-store service for online purchases is the most common illustration of this approach.

The choices consumers have to research their options and make a purchase keep multiplying. In this environment, customers understandably expect that stores will service those purchases, regardless of the point of sale. In many cases, the point of sale isn’t entirely clear; often, you reserve items online with a credit card, but the payment isn’t processed until the in-store pickup is completed.

This makes an “agile POS” not only more effective, but more practical for many businesses. It’s often easier to integrate the physical and ecommerce points of sale than to continually fight the different operating systems of the special types of hardware needed at checkout, which make upgrades a challenge. And once your checkout process is integrated, scores of other omnichannel opportunities come into view.

Omnichannel Is All about Agility

Your POS system isn’t the only thing that needs to be agile – your revenue tracking needs to be, too. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Researchers from Northwestern University and Dartmouth College collected a year’s worth of data on BOPIS at a major retailer with 80+ stores to examine how it affected purchasing habits, and the results are the perfect example of modern omnichannel retailing.

Surprisingly, they found that online sales actually dropped near stores that offer Buy Online, Pickup In Store programs, in spite of increased web traffic. Moreover, overall multichannel sales and in-store sales at those locations both increased. So what was happening?

Shoppers were using the ecommerce system for reliable inventory information. If you can pick it up in a few hours, you know it’s in the store. If you want to examine the product before buying, you can take a look before giving anyone your credit card info. An agile retailer is prepared to accommodate your needs, whichever purchase path you choose to take.

In today’s market, coupons, promotions, purchase options, and return policies don’t operate the way they used to. Begin the new year by taking a second look at your operation from the eyes of a consumer – particularly, one who is trying to get as much done as possible on her smartphone while rushing from a business meeting to soccer practice.