In the first quarter of 2020, department store sales and those from other “non-essential” retailers declined by 25%, and as much as 75% in the second quarter. The winds of change are blowing, and it’s happening fast.
For several years now, retailers from SME business to giants like Walmart have learned that holding or offering special experiences and services in-store not only attracts customers, but also encourages them to linger longer, buy more products, and make them willing to spend more on those products.
However, the tables have turned. According to the 2020 eCommerce Trend Report from Australia Post, right after the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic, online purchases in Australia experienced an increase of 28% YoY before hitting a peak of 135% YoY a week after Easter. Moreover, Statista data shows a quite similar shift which demonstrates that retail websites generated almost 22 billion visits in June 2020, up from 16.07 billion global visits in January 2020. This was during the sudden COVID-19 breakout that has forced millions of people to stay at home.
COVID-19 impact on global retail eCommerce site traffic 2019-2020. Source: Statista
The COVID-19 crisis apparently offers an unforeseen insight into our future world, in which digital has become integral to any interaction, pushing both organizations and individuals to step up the adoption curve almost overnight. The peak season of 2020 is not an exception. All retailers need to embrace an automated process that has become a key driver of efficiency while digital platforms are becoming the main or sole customer-engagement model. And moreover, the adoption of agile retail strategies is a requirement for meeting the new-normal consumer behavioural shifts.
Shopping online and getting goods delivered at home might be a good temporary solution. However, not all customers are willing to be a home-body shopper in the long run as the new-normal has enabled the possibility of enjoying life outside. That’s where BOPIS – Buy Online Pickup In Store – comes in to save the day. It’s not just about digital stories. BOPIS asks companies to reimagine their customer journeys to reduce friction, accelerate the shift to digital channels, and provide for new safety requirements such as hand sanitizer, social distancing measures, increased cleaning, etc.
According to the Adobe Digital Economy Index in July 2020, BOPIS has continued to see strong growth, with 31% of online consumers preferring Click & Collect or curbside pickup over delivery since April. Moreover, the figures for July showed a slight uptick (23.3%) in usage over June, despite the increase in COVID-19 across the US. The report also demonstrates that reopened states in the US show an 8% smaller increase in online shopping.
Online BOPIS figures in the US | 2019 vs 2020. Source: Adobe Analytics
When it comes to customer preferences, Salesforce’s Snapshot Research Series has shown that 32% of respondents are more interested in using BOPIS compared to last year, while 24% of those asked were recorded as using BOPIS more than usual. Furthermore, McKinsey has also stressed the importance of BOPIS in their “Adapting to the next normal in retail: The customer experience imperative” report. The figures show that BOPIS has experienced the highest growth out of five safe delivery modes. Meanwhile, 59% of respondents intend to continue BOPIS in the long term.
Source: McKinsey COVID-19 US Consumer Pulse Survey, April 20-26,2020, sampled and weighed to match the US general population aged 18 years old and over.
With such a fast-moving BOPIS trend, Salesforce has made their prediction on peak season outcome that “sites offering store pickup – curbside, inside, drive-through – will see a 90% increase in digital sales over the previous holiday season”. These numbers have not only shown customers’ preferred shopping experience this holiday, but also emphasised the crucial role of BOPIS in the future survival of the retail industry.
Yes, customers love the emerging BOPIS experience. However, it is not an easy job to actually carry out BOPIS smoothly in such a rush and in this ever-changing situation. But quitting the game halfway through is not an option as all enterprises are heading for BOPIS. Here are four key factors that will lead businesses to a successful implementation of this new-normal shopping method:
Transparency and exchanging feedback are crucial to creating a frictionless experience. Consumers want to take the initiative, including when and how they can get the goods they want. They want to get their order ASAP, and have no trouble coming to the shop to get it. And timing is just as important as location, since most customers want to pick up at a store that is convenient to them.
Therefore, an eCommerce website/app with stock visibility and timing indication, along with the use of store stock for completion, will encourage customers who prefer BOPIS to make a purchase. If certain stores have stock and allow quicker pickup, or if the preferred pickup store does not have stock and takes a few more days to move, consumers will know and act accordingly.
BOPIS is more than just in-store experience
The eCommerce warehouse Ship-to-Store is the simplest method of implementation for BOPIS. Although this makes the process much easier, it tends to cause inventory inefficiency, excessive logistics costs, and unsatisfactory customer service with excessive waiting times. The ability to maximize stock at stores is vital to BOPIS’s success. The online system needs to be aware of the retail inventory and not just the online warehouse, because the stores are still actively selling the same product. Real-time integration of products along with safety practices will be necessary. Routing rules are also required to decide the best way of fulfilling the order based on stock availability.
One of the main components that contributes to the success of BOPIS is the refinement of store operations practices, as store associates now need to be aware of online orders, monitor orders and take advantage of customer visits for cross-selling opportunities.
If the item is in stock at the local store selected by the customer, the shop assistants may use the app/website to quickly find, select and hold the order to be picked up by the customer. When ready, a sales assistant will send an email or text to the customer to let them know that they are ready to pick up. Such procedures save shoppers valuable time browsing the aisles while removing obstacles to order fulfilment for workers in the store. On the other hand, if the shop does not have an item in stock, the associate must order it from a nearby store or warehouse. When it has arrived, the customer will be informed and it will be available for pickup at his or her convenience.
Customers primarily use BOPIS to reduce shipping costs and wait times. If your BOPIS option doesn’t help them overcome these pain points, there won’t be any added value in their shopping experience.
Customers want the most contactless pickup possible
BOPIS orders should be available within a few hours, with pickups located at the front of the store and waiting times small to nil. For example, Wal-Mart uses “Pickup Towers“ and lockers to fulfil orders, enabling consumers to simply walk in, enter a code, and get their products with a minimum of hassle.
Customers should be able to go straight to the designated online pickup area in the store where they will be handed over to a fully-trained BOPIS shop assistant. Customers can easily be directed to the store at the right time to pick up their purchased items, including getting the receipt in the form of a text message, a push notification or an email with a receipt or a QR order code, as well as simple and clear directions as to where their product will be waiting in the shop.
The rise of BOPIS this peak season is not happening because of COVID-19. It was just the pandemic that drove the revolution in the shopping experience to take place faster. And BOPIS is going to remain as one of the ultimate solutions for the industry as the outcome of the situation is still unpredictable, and technological innovations are making brick-and-mortar less and less popular with customers. Riding the BOPIS wave is not an option any more; all of us are joining the game now.
And we’re just under two months away from the peak season! The BOPIS game 2020 is available to all businesses with the Commerce Quick-start package from SmartOSC, which enables you to boost sales with your holiday campaigns in just 6 weeks. Contact us now to see how your business can take wing with best-in-class strategies and technology, or take a quick look at how we’ve helped other businesses succeed.