Ned Hill, founder and CEO of Position Imaging, explains how an effective BOPIS fulfillment solution can improve store experiences with safe, secure, and fast merchandise retrieval. But BOPIS systems are not all alike and he offers up tips for retailers in making the right technology choice.
As we begin to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and shoppers begin to dust off and dig into their piggy banks to make purchases they have pushed off for months, retailers who have embraced Buy Online Pick Up in Store solutions will reap the benefits. Those individuals lucky enough to remain employed during this pandemic have retained a larger portion of their income due to reduced spending on things like restaurants, movies, shopping excursions, and related spending activities.
How much money has been redirected into personal savings accounts? According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. personal savings rate skyrocketed to a record 32.2% in April 2020, up from 12.7% in March 2020. Adding to the personal savings amount are several rounds of pandemic stimulus checks ladled into citizen’s pockets from a portion of $3 trillion the federal government allocated to combat the pandemic.
The pent-up demand for goods and services and the unprecedented amount of savings create a real opportunity for stores to make up for a very difficult time in retail. However, there is a caveat: shoppers will still be cautious about person-to-person contact. Those retailers who have embraced technology to circumvent the human element but still allow consumers to safely and easily retrieve merchandise within hours of purchasing will find themselves the beneficiary of bloated piggy banks.
An effective BOPIS fulfillment solution can improve store experiences with safe, secure, and fast merchandise retrieval. But BOPIS systems are not all alike and merchants who are considering embracing omnichannel click and collect programs need to know the differences.
Here are 10 things retailers need to consider when selecting a BOPIS solution:
1. Metrics For Accurate Measurement and ROI. The efficiency of store employees is critical to improving the customer experience. Before an in-store pickup solution can be put in place the retailer must understand their current metrics to create a baseline for BOPIS transactions, including statistics on employee time and customer interaction. For example, analytics need to track how long it takes employees to stage an order, their interaction time, and the total time customers take to use the BOPIS solution. Only then can a retailer build KPIs and measure how well the solution is performing.
2. Install and Trial Time. Trial BOPIS systems should be able to be set up in hours, not days. This includes installation, calibration, testing, and training employees; look for a half-day install to be up and running by the afternoon to quickly pilot the solution. Moving forward, these solutions can integrate with existing order management or point-of-sale systems.
3. Maintenance. Good BOPIS systems are not complicated and do not have many moving parts. Retailers need to look for open shelving units, from commonly used vendors such as the Lozier shelving gondola, which has been deployed in stores for decades. The software portion of the system needs to have automatic notifications to alert the retailer of potential problems and push updates that keep the software current.
4. Scalability. Good systems scale not just with the retailer’s everyday volume, but also easily expand to handle seasonality increases. If the BOPIS system does not scale well it will either be under or over capacity at any particular time.
5. Flexibility. The same system needs to be user and staff friendly while accommodating various sized items. BOPIS systems that utilize shelving in lieu of a locker-based approach are inherently more flexible, due to the open spaces to stage items as opposed to finite locker dimensions that may limit storage possibilities. These shelving-based systems can also be used for curbside pickup as well as in-store, consumer-served merchandise retrieval.
6. Time to Retrieval. The time between customers’ arrival and having the purchased merchandise in their hands should take no more than two minutes. Speed is an asset, customers who wait more than two minutes for their items will typically not engage in repeat business.
7. Open Application Programming Interface. Systems need to offer an API, where connectors can be built to integrate BOPIS into any existing order management system. The APIs need to provide basic integration for quick deployment, then be capable of building more advanced integration for detailed inventory accuracy. Look for a “stepwise, walk-run” software approach that’s built into the BOPIS system to enable fast deployment and deeper integration when needed.
8. AI-Based Intuition. The BOPIS system needs to have integration with the retailer’s e-commerce platform to ascertain other items the consumer viewed but did not add to their cart for the final purchase. Via artificial intelligence, BOPIS systems such as iPickup can extrapolate information from an OMS and suggest items that were viewed but not purchased. These items can be staged at discounted prices when the consumer arrives for their main item pickup.
9. True Contactless Experience. Due to the pandemic, customers don’t want to come in contact with anything but their purchased items during pickup. This experience requires the use of mobile phones, QR code scanning, and audio and visual guidance to the items staged for pickups. This is in contrast to locker-based systems that promote additional hand contact on surfaces that many others have recently touched.
10. Product Roadmap. Make sure the selected BOPIS system not only has in-store and curbside pickup, but also plans for a return in-store, backroom inventory management, and use of access points or couriers. In addition, it should provide a digital breadcrumb trail of all transactions through the system including a digital image of the merchandise. This provides the retailer with an additional level of security on the product, while at the customer level, it guarantees confirmation of the returned item.
If merchants are to capitalize on the predicted spending boom, they cannot return to offering the high touch, face-to-face, and slow BOPIS pickup experiences defined by the pre-pandemic retail age. High-touch interactions must be replaced with digital conveniences and multi-channel retail options. Face-to-face interactions need to evolve into safe, secure, and, ideally for many transactions, self service operations if businesses expect to survive.
Retailers don’t need to retool their existing systems to achieve success, but they do need to augment them with innovative solutions such as iPickup, solutions that can easily and quickly meet the 10 BOPIS solution criteria listed above. Retailers that embrace this new shopping experience will generate a strong revenue stream fueled by consumers with cabin fever from being in quarantine, ready to make purchases with more disposable income from savings than any other generation in our history.
Ned Hill is the founder and CEO of Position Imaging