Why in-store pickup is about more than convenience

Retailers are finding ways to get more out of an increasingly common interaction

If a retailer views “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store”—or BOPIS, as it’s known in the industry—purely as an e-commerce channel, they’re missing the big picture.

Each transaction in which customers pickup in-store is a chance to add value to the relationship. Whether that means speed, cross-selling, or a unique bit of customer service that amplifies the visit, BOPIS plays just as important a role as the rest of the brick-and-mortar experience. Some trips may not translate to additional purchases right then and there, but the way a retailer handles pickup can dictate how the customer feels about the brand overall.

To get the most out of BOPIS, retailers should ask themselves a few important questions.

Does in-store pickup give customers an inventive brand experience? 

The pickup area is a micro-version—a glimpse—of the larger brand and store experience, and it should be held to the same standards. One way to see the express zone is as its own store entirely.

Rethink your store

“Some of the grocery store guys, like HEB, are actually building onto their stores and creating almost separate convenience store outlets if you will. But they’re also utilized for order online, pick it up at the curb kind of mentality. This audience is kind of time-centric, every minute counts,” said Dick Lew, a senior associate at the architecture, design, planning and consulting firm Gensler.

Convenience is definitely paramount, but retailers must consider a number of factors in order to make pickup part of a positive brand experience. Is the express area easily accessed, for instance, with clear signage throughout the store? Is it placed upfront purely for quick discovery, or is it driving additional customer engagement by existing deeper in the store? Are there options for self-checkout and interaction with a sales associate if need be? Is consumer-friendly tech being implemented to streamline the process even further?

Which tools can turn pickup into upsell? 

Getting customers in-store for pickup isn’t “half the battle.” It’s winning at least two battles. Not only do retailers save on shipping costs—they gain a very concrete chance for further sales:

“Attachment rates means that when customers end up going to buy online and pickup at store, they’ll buy other items. And that could translate to 30 percent or more customers buying other items,” said Oliver Chen a managing director and senior equity research analyst at Cowen & Company covering retail and luxury goods.

A number of retailers, including Kohl’s and Macy’s have incentivized sales by offering as much as a 20% in-store discount to BOPIS customers. Plenty of other promotional tools are worth consideration, such as “targeted” discounts on items specifically related to one’s purchase, loyalty programs that allow BOPIS customers to build credit toward the next season’s releases, trial items included as a “surprise” with one’s order, or push notifications for items in low supply or newly available in a customer’s size.

Is BOPIS ready for a new name altogether?   

The path from item selection online to reliable fulfillment in-store and secure mobile payment needs to be uninterrupted and painless. A must for the digital experience is to build robust, illustrative product content online, offering users an accurate portrait of items well before they arrive to collect. But that’s not always the path a customer takes. Sometimes online purchase comes from the other direction, beginning with in-store exploration.

Zara has played with both automated online collection points in-store. In an interesting twist, it has also offered a “reversal” of the process: pop-up stores that give users the option to interact with clothing but then buy online in-store and have items delivered the very same day. One could call this “Buy In-Store, Pickup at Home.” BISPAH, anyone? Other customers, meanwhile might not buy in the moment but rather after they’ve left the store. Call it DISCO—“Delight In-Store, Checkout Online.”

Ultimately, it’s likely the concept of BOPIS needs a refresh. In the months and years ahead, expect more retailers to find a name that focuses more on the power of the customer experience than the path to purchase or item fulfillment.