Although most of the growth in retail is happening online, physical retail often still represents 90% of a retailer’s sales. One way to leverage existing physical locations and provide a more efficient experience for customers is to support “Buy On-line, Pick-up In-Store,” or BOPIS for short. Customers do their research online, select their products, and later pick up the items at a physical store. However, the road to supporting BOPIS has many pitfalls to avoid. We’ve collected 10 common BOPIS issues that smart retailers should address, before their omni-channel evolution leaves their customers wanting more.

  1. The system says there’s stock, but it cannot be found.
  2. We can find the inventory, but it is open-box, expired, on display, or reserved by another store.
  3. BOPIS orders are reserving all in-store inventory of popular items and disappointing in-store shoppers.
  4. Not enough staff to pick BOPIS orders and service customers.
  5. Staff aren’t incentivised to process BOPIS orders.
  6. It takes staff too long to find/pick entire BOPIS orders.
  7. Lack of pickup counter / space.
  8. The online price/promotion was or is lower than the in-store price when the order is picked up.
  9. The average basket size is lower for BOPIS orders than for in-store transactions.
  10. BOPIS creates additional fraud risks.

There are three major causes creating a negative customer experience and impacting the retailer’s profitability: Imprecise inventory, staff execution issues, and profit loss. Let’s take a deeper look.

Imprecise inventory

The first and most important step for retailers to succeed at BOPIS is making sure inventory is as accurately and correctly bucketised as possible, so no false expectations are set with customers. Obviously, this can be difficult when you consider shrink, open-box items, temporarily misplaced items, and products that are sitting in a shopper’s cart in the store. Once there’s some confidence in accurate, timely inventory counts, retailers can start to optimise the “available to promise” of inventory. For example, you may withhold a “safety stock” to account for inventory discrepancies or to exclude open-box items (or sell them as such online). You may choose to offer only a percentage of in-store inventory online so as not to disappoint in-store customers—or you could limit the amount of stock reserved in one store by another store. Constructing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for these solutions varies by item type, velocity, and seasonality, so there’s no simple answer without the right technology in place to make data-driven, real-time decisions about actual available inventory.

Staff execution issues

One of the biggest issues for mixing channel sales is allocating the sales credit in a BOPIS transaction. As a rule of thumb, if the store is involved, it should receive at least partial credit for the sale. This will incentivise the store associates to execute and ensure the customer experience meets brand standards. If there’s any volume at all, be sure your in-store staff picks orders “incognito” (to avoid being stopped to answer questions on the sales floor, etc.) and is equipped with effective “picking” software that helps them find and secure items on the floor and in the backroom. It also is extremely important that in addition to sales data, pickup labour is also accounted for when scheduling staff.

Profit loss

Even when BOPIS is executed successfully, it doesn’t guarantee profits. It’s important to manage online and in-store pricing and promotions consistently to prevent margin leak. The design of the pickup location is important, ensuring appropriate impulse or high margin upsell items are available and easy to add to an order. For example, if a customer bought a grill using BOPIS, the retailer would want to ensure that charcoal, propane, or grill accessories were easily within reach when she arrives. The pickup itself is a customer service opportunity where – when appropriate – assistance can be rendered to ensure the purchase decision was correct. Lastly, retailers must verify the customer’s identity to reduce fraud and retain profits.

Getting BOPIS right

Over time, the BOPIS process should be optimised taking into account inventory, staff, and profitability. Once the issues have been smoothed over, it’s on to “Buy Online Ship from Store.”

Matt Jones is Vice President – Retail Strategy at Infor