As states begin to gradually reopen their economies, retailers are preparing for what’s next. Brands are now re-imagining the world of physical shopping, factoring in new operational and hygiene processes, redesigned store layouts, and social distancing practices to ensure employee and customer safety.
One trend that analysts expect to remain long after the pandemic subsides is the shift towards buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS). That’s because the nature of BOPIS offers consumers a convenient way to shop while also providing a safer alternative to browsing in-stores.
New Demands for BOPIS Amid COVID-19 Restrictions
Consumer demand for BOPIS (which includes in-store or curbside pickup) skyrocketed in April. Adobe Analytics reports that BOPIS orders increased 208% April 1- 20, 2020 compared to 2019. It’s also estimated that a large portion of those who tried out BOPIS during COVID-19 restrictions did so for the first time for new categories of products.
The major obstacle facing merchants was a consumer surge coupled with a lack of technology and infrastructure which overwhelmed the ability to handle the demand.
What Consumers Say About BOPIS
Even before COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, consumer sentiment about BOPIS was fairly positive.
A 2019 report from ISCS found that the biggest factor in BOPIS adoption was a desire to avoid delivery fees, but convenience played a big role, too. One-third of respondents chose the option because of the guarantee that a product would be in-store by a certain date and time, giving consumers a better opportunity to plan. Brands also have the opportunity to increase revenues as 94% of respondents noted they are likely to make an additional purchase when picking up the merchandise they ordered online.
The Future of BOPIS and Curbside Pick-up
The demand for and benefits of BOPIS are well documented, but in the new normal, brands need to prioritize safety and a positive consumer experience for their BOPIS offering.
“Economically, a BOPIS model makes great commercial sense,” noted Tom Enright, Vice President with Gartner Supply Chain Research for the retail industry, in an earlier blog post. “On the one hand, retailers save shipping costs. On the other hand, online shoppers visit physical stores and might be enticed to make additional purchases. The key is to tune the service and consumer experience to achieve maximum benefit for both parties.”
That sentiment remains true today, but with a few points of extra emphasis. For BOPIS to be successful, for both retailers and consumers, brands should take note of the following.
Understand that convenience is more of a priority
Convenience takes on new meaning as schedules are in a permanent state of flux. Many of those working from home are doing so while also home-schooling children, cooking more, and having to improvise many personal and work tasks. This has led to acute exhaustion and burnout for consumers across the country.
Offer a seamless omnichannel experience
This has always been an important driver in BOPIS, but takes on renewed urgency now. As Gartner notes, early adopters of BOPIS struggled to match the slick experience customers felt online, to the experience they had when actually walking into the store to pick-up their merchandise. Most importantly, don’t make customers wait in long lines with no clear guidance.
To counteract this, give store employees as much visibility as the e-commerce team has. Make sure packages are available for pick-up at the time quoted, and that consumers feel the process is intuitive.
Create two-way communication with consumers
This should start from the very beginning of the checkout process. Allow consumers to schedule their own pick -time, whether that’s in person or curbside, at the location that’s most convenient for them. Adding real-time messaging is another way to stay in touch while providing value. Text messages that notify a consumer when their order is ready while also greeting them when they arrive (and potentially showing related offers or more specifics on pickup details) drive the seamless omnichannel experience that’s crucial for long-term success.