Parents Want to Buy Online & Pick Up in Store for Back-to-School — Here’s How Retailers Can Make It Easier

It’s well-understood that today’s shopper is on the hunt for convenience.

And as parents, kids and young adults dole out a projected $82.8 billion across retailers this back-to-school season, stores with the most hassle-free options — coupled with great product — will likely get the largest share of their wallets. (Total spending for kindergarten through college is projected to reach $82.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.)

As more retailers seek to reach optimal omnichannel cohesion, they’re finding a key way to meet the convenience consumers seek is by offering buy online, pick up in store (or BOPIS).

“With the dominance of Amazon, and the continued growth of online shopping in general, retailers are pursuing innovation around fulfillment options,” said Penny Lasater, senior product manager at 24-hour package management platform Package Concierge Retail. “The popularity of BOPIS is the perfect way for today’s retailers to marry the best of both the online and in-store experiences to engage with customers, and the right BOPIS fulfillment system can make the difference between success and setback.”

Indeed, Walmart, Target, Nordstrom and DSW have all found marked success in BOPIS, which has allowed them to compete with digital pure plays by leveraging their stores for online order fulfillment.

Still, this back-to-school season, companies will need to work out the kinks if they want to come out on top.

A study by JDA last year found that nearly half of respondents experienced some issues with BOPIS — most of which related to mismanaged staffing concerns, such as having no dedicated staff (17 percent) and taking a long time to find the order in the system (23 percent).

“BOPIS doesn’t work if retailers don’t have a clearly stated fulfillment promise that they can consistently deliver on,” according to Package Concierge. “Retailers must make their BOPIS process convenient and quick. BOPIS falls short if consumers experience friction with fulfillment — standing in line to retrieve an order is a satisfaction killer.” 

Some retailers — like Walmart and Target — are already upping the ante by promising a four-hour turnaround on items in stock. By the same token, having popular merchandise on hand is critical when it comes to making the most of BOPIS.

“Retailers need to ensure customers can view store-level inventory when making an item selection,” Package Concierge advised. “Shoppers today want their merchandise [as soon as possible], and they’ll likely only consider items that are in stock and ready for pickup; otherwise, they’ll go to another retailer to find it.”

Meanwhile, if a shoppers can expeditiously pick up their online orders, they’re more likely to make incremental purchases while in the store.

JDA’s survey found most shoppers use BOPIS to avoid home delivery charges (40 percent), get their merchandise sooner (33 percent), for convenience (12 percent), because they wanted to see the actual item (8 percent) and because they felt more confident they would receive their purchases versus home delivery (7 percent).

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