A bruised and battered retail space might have found a solid pathway to getting back on track this holiday season.
For the past five years, creating an omnichannel strategy has been among the top priorities for many footwear and apparel firms. But recently, companies have learned that their initial conception of omnichannel — creating an e-commerce website and mobile platform to complement a brick-and-mortar presence — was missing a major component: cohesion.
Enter buy online, pickup in store: a new platform becoming known in the industry as BOPIS.
“This is a new way we are leveraging the synergies between DSW.com and DSW stores,” explained Christina Cheng, senior director of investor relations at DSW Inc., which rolled out the concept last fall and immediately saw an uptick in sales. “In a category where sizing and fit are idiosyncratic, this integrated online-offline model provides a better customer experience in finding the right shoe every time.”
BOPIS allows customers to make a purchase online — either from the retailer’s entire inventory or from the available stock at a single store — and pick it up from a nearby location, avoiding shipping fees and the hassle of waiting for a delivery.
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At the same time, offering the service helps retailers to make better use of their physical stores at a time when brick-and-mortar traffic is under intense pressure, according to B. Riley & Co. analyst Jeff Van Sinderen.
“Often, when a customer makes a trip to the store [to pick up an ordered item], they tend to make incremental purchases of items that they realize they need or want while in the store,” explained Van Sinderen. “With brick-and-mortar foot traffic generally trending down throughout the space, the customer tends to research more online and purchase more in fewer store visits. BOPIS enhances the positive elements of that phenomenon.”
With e-commerce-only players such as Amazon and eBay posing a critical threat to the viability of brick-and-mortar focused firms, offering BOPIS is giving many faltering companies a new edge, according to Farla Efros, president of HRC Advisory.
“At this point, retailers need to offer BOPIS in order to be competitive,” Efros said.
Still, if they want to be successful, there are several areas that companies need to address to make sure that the process is seamless, Efros added.
“[BOPIS] requires a very distinct capability and investments, and some retailers haven’t gotten there yet because of that — it’s costly to implement and labor intensive [to maintain],” explained Efros. “You really have to be good at fulfilling demand.”
Nevertheless, Nordstrom Inc., hailed as one of the department stores to pioneer the BOPIS concept when it launched the platform in early 2009, said it has already learned several key techniques to further enhance the experience.
“We’ve learned that customers who are using this service, generally speaking, are valuing convenience and speed,” explained Shea Jensen, VP of customer experience at Nordstrom Inc. “We’re learning that we need to have dedicated space that’s easy to find and accessible.”
Jensen said that in addition to rolling out devoted spaces for customers to quickly retrieve the items they ordered online — even if it’s at the expense of much sought-after conversion — Nordstrom has also recognized that many customers prefer to select a particular store’s inventory as opposed to shopping the entire company’s wares.
“We recently launched a feature we call Store Mode, which allows the customer to actually filter the inventory that they’re viewing on Nordstrom.com or within the Nordstrom app by a store of their choice,” Jensen said. “They can select either a local store or a store in a town they’re traveling in, or their favorite store, and have a view of the inventory that’s available for them.”
Meanwhile, J.C. Penney Co., which rolled out BOPIS in 800 stores in July following a pilot test in 200 stores last year, said it continues to reap rewards from the platform.
“Not only do our customers like the convenience of our BOPIS same day service, but it has been a tremendous traffic and sales driver for our stores,” explained Kate Coultas, senior manager of corporate communications and public relations at JCPenney. “We’ve found that 40 percent of our BOPIS same-day customers make an additional in-store purchase of over $50 while picking up their order.”
For added convenience, Coultas said, JCPenney has on average more than 16,000 items available for BOPIS same-day pickup in any given store.