As BOPIS spreads, can stores handle it?

RetailWire panelists had a couple of chances during the holiday season to comment on the spread of BOPIS (“Buy online, pickup in store”) among many chains trying to expand their omnichannel footprint. Many of the comments focused on stores’ ability to execute BOPIS, at the same time that they are dealing with holiday traffic and breaking assortments. I’ve combined several posts on this topic below.

First, on the topic of BOPIS and late-deadline “ship from store” initiatives:

BOPIS is less risky only if the brick-and-mortar store has the item that the customer wants. It’s likely that online shoppers will start to see limited availability in stores as assortments start to break before Christmas. This puts the expectation back onto the e-commerce fulfillment capacity, so there is some risk involved in overreliance on BOPIS.

Are retailers playing with fire? Of course, but it’s not a surprise that everyone wants to be the “last one standing” with the latest possible order dates and the best shot at a little more market share. Hopefully the weather over the next week will be less disruptive than in 2013 — and the retailers have had a year to plan and partner more effectively with the major carriers.

Second, on the topic of payroll hours needed to execute BOPIS effectively:

I’ve raised red flags about this issue several times this year, as the practice has spread. Omnichannel retailers run the risk of overburdening their brick-and-mortar locations in a few key ways:

First, is the staffing adequate to take care of customers who have actually driven to the store to buy something, on top of processing e-commerce goods? Second, are assortments on seasonal goods starting to break (as they should about a week before Christmas), making it more difficult to fulfill web orders? Finally, are the logistics of getting goods from random store locations to the customer more difficult to coordinate with the big carriers?

As the Target exec says in the Wall Street Journal article, everybody has a lot to learn this year, especially when layered on top of BOPIS initiatives and healthy store traffic to begin with.

And, finally, whether BOPIS represents a time saver for the customer…and whether it matters:

It’s not about saving time vs. a random trip to shop for the same item, so the time study cited is missing the point. The perceived benefit of BOPIS is the assurance that the wanted item is in fact going to be in stock, and set aside for the customer when it’s convenient for him or her to make the visit. Many websites can indicate whether an item is “in stock” in a nearby store, but there is not a 100% guarantee of accuracy, nor a promise that the item will be easy to locate within the store. After all, the customer can’t find an item in the stockroom or on a storage trailer!

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