Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) is definitely having a moment as a key, and sometimes critical, Fast-Order-Fulfillment strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety concerns have certainly made shoppers more likely to shop online, in fact holiday shoppers spent a record $106.5B online from November through Cyber Week. And according to KIBO Commerce, while those online shoppers are checking out, they are 4x more likely to choose BOPIS or Curbside Pickup than they were before the pandemic. Why?
BOPIS and Curbside Pickup provide immediate and often contact-less access to products, without shipping delays or fees. Shippers that have struggled with carrier capacity challenges or Peak Season capacity caps will likely celebrate this news. However, there are certainly some rising stars amongst BOPIS-enabled brands, and it begs the question for those new to such a Fast-Order-Fulfillment strategy – what are the best practices for those looking to implement BOPIS and Curbside Pickup?
It’s About Inventory
Unsurprisingly, fast and real-time inventory data is key to a successful BOPIS and Curbside Pickup strategy. Imagine a scenario wherein an online shopper puts a product into their digital cart, but upon checkout is refused purchase because someone in store – or a faster online shopper – had depleted your stock. A fast and central inventory management system is key to any E-Commerce brand also serving customers from brick-and-mortar stores; however, it’s especially true for BOPIS and Curbside Pickup shoppers, as these shoppers will want to know what products (and how many) are immediately available nearby for pickup.
Your E-Commerce Store Should Push BOPIS
A seemingly obvious BOPIS best practice is to enable your E-Commerce store to allow customers to specifically filter products by what’s available for in-store or curbside pickup. But don’t stop there – create callouts on product and checkout pages that let customers know when products are available for pickup at a store near them. A well-timed BOPIS-centric popup or callout when a customer appears to be abandoning their cart could actually convert to sale, as the customer may simply be unwilling to pay or wait for delivery. A study by Usabilla found that the number one reason for online cart abandonment was high shipping costs (58% of respondents). A fifth of those respondents also said that a delivery error would prevent them from becoming a return customer of that online brand.
In short, enabling your E-Commerce store for BOPIS or Curbside Pickup is only one component of this Fast-Order-Fulfillment strategy, and it’s certainly not an easy or inexpensive endeavor. So why implement half-heartedly? Hit full send, and build your BOPIS strategy into the customer experience and user interface to literally push online shoppers in that direction.
You Need a BOPIS Procedure.
Though it’s no surprise, this best practice is certainly worth repeating. Without a formal procedure for how BOPIS or Curbside Pickup purchases should be handled by employees and collected by customers, expectations wane and chaos abound. Clear communication goes a long way in benefitting both your employees and your customers. Ensure that you identify and outline every step of the process – from the moment the online shopper puts the product into their digital cart, down to the moment they leave your brick-and-mortar store’s parking lot, leave no stone left unturned.
You may find you develop several policies or procedures during this time, as there is an internal employee-driven function occurring, as well as an external customer-driven one. Both parties are integral to ensuring the BOPIS and Curbside Pickup order is fulfilled entirely. In short, you want to ask yourself – is it clear to my employees and my customers what is expected of them to fulfill and collect the order? Keep in mind, you’ll undoubtedly have a need for two collection policies – one for in-store pickup via an employee-manned desk or kiosk, and one for your parking lot via Curbside Pickup. Expectations and policies should be clear for all parties involved, and customer expectations and instructions should be as public as possible to ensure an easy transaction. Where do BOPIS and Curbside Pickup customers go for collection? Are desks/kiosks and designated Curbside parking spots clearly marked? What forms of identification (if any) are needed from the customer to fulfill the order? These are the types of questions you want to answer before the customer ever hits your lot.
Ensure BOPIS Orders are a Priority by Creating a BOPIS-Dedicated Team
By now, you’ve probably realized BOPIS and Curbside Pickup are far more complex than the names imply. Though they are simple concepts, their implementation can be incredibly complex – and as with all human interactions, they can be overwhelmed or distressed with emotions. Clear policies and procedures help evade some of that potential emotional distress, as does ensuring the process moves as quickly as humanly possible. Another best practice for this Fast-Order-Fulfillment strategy is to ensure you create a dedicated BOPIS and Curbside Pickup team. Similar to ensuring your E-Commerce store pushes customers toward BOPIS and Curbside Pickup, a dedicated team is another wholehearted attempt to ensure successful implementation and return on investment. Employees distracted by other in-store tasks and responsibilities will undoubtedly slow down or provide opportunities for error throughout your strategy, as well as lack focus on helping you identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement as they interact with BOPIS and Curbside Pickup customers.
Practice Both Segments of Your BOPIS System
Once you’ve developed your BOPIS and Curbside Pickup procedures and policies, it is paramount to run practice drills beginning as early as an E-Commerce store purchase. Ensure you practice both the employee-driven and customer-driven segments, so that you may find opportunities to correct areas of confusion or improve speed.
Be Crystal Clear – and Early – in Customer Pickup Instructions
In a list of important steps, this step is marked High High Importance. Customers have the ability to deviate even the best laid plans, so communicate as early as possible answers to the two most important BOPIS and Curbside Pickup questions:
- When can customers pickup their purchase;
- And how do customers collect their purchase?
Answer both of these questions repeatedly. After a successful purchase, follow up with a confirmation email that thanks them for their purchase and directs them to your BOPIS and Curbside Pickup procedure. Fill in as much personalized data as your system allows, such as the physical address of the pickup store they selected, the pickup time or window they selected, and a reminder of what they are picking up. Don’t forget to provide them a concise version of your BOPIS and Curbside Pickup procedure for customers (where do they go, how do they notify you if they are a curbside customer, do they need to provide identification, etc.), or point them to a concise landing page that will answer these questions.
Consider also allowing real-time order tracking to customers via email confirmations (e.g., your order was placed, your order is being prepared, your order is ready), text messages alerts they can opt into, or even a special landing page with updates (hello, Domino’s Tracker!).
Finally, don’t forget to continuously practice your BOPIS and Curbside Pickup strategy, especially as you make optimization changes. Whether you choose to test your system weekly, monthly, or quarterly – regular practicing of both your employee-driven and customer-driven segments will lead to continuous improvement of your procedure and yield a better experience for all.
Written by Cameron Elliott
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