Automated, Self-Serve Order Pickup: The Next Step For BOPIS

By: Kent Savage

As e-commerce retail and mobile ordering technology continue to disrupt the traditional retail landscape, we are seeing an impressive, industry-wide response from bricks and mortar retailers.

The rapidly-evolving shopping experience is clearly becoming more convenient for the consumer and the retailer — particularly when it comes to click and collect/BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) services.

Armed with the latest technology and an operational focus, retailers are flipping their brick and mortar presence into a hybrid of convenience by marrying the convenience of digital ordering with automated, self-serve pickup.

Stores are becoming more flexible than ever before by addressing consumers’ passion for more options in how they buy, pick-up and return their purchases.


Customer-Focused Collaboration Pays Off
Over the past year, a range of services were announced, tested or rolled out across North American retail.

Larger retailers like Walmart and Target rolled out an array of new order fulfillment options to ensure customers can order, pay for and receive what they want, when and where they want it. Capital expenditures are being invested by each brand to physically integrate these convenience-focused services into their store designs.

The pace of innovation isn’t any slower for other retailers. Regardless of category, most retailers are testing individual services — grocery in particular. We’re seeing everything from BOPIS and BOSS (Buy Online, Ship to Store) to curbside pickup and home delivery being tested to make purchase collection more convenient.  Collectively, these efforts are intended to counter the impact of pure-play e-tailers like Amazon.

The big competitive advantage bricks and mortar retailers are finding is that by offering self-serve pickup inside and outside their stores, they can offer a better, faster and more convenient experience than e-commerce merchants can provide. And each one of these efforts have surely required an unprecedented level of collaboration to create a seamless, unified shopping experience across mobile, online, in-store and operations.


Continuous Improvement is Key
On the heels of this industry-wide “heavy up” on convenience, retailers should now focus on making these services as simple and lightweight as possible. Put differently, if 2017 was the year of convenience in retail, perhaps 2018 the focus is expanding to automated self-serve fulfillment.

Two words, borrowed from the manufacturing world, explain how leading retailers are already focused on what’s next — continuous improvement. Forward-looking retailers understand improvements may be incremental or breakthrough. Efficient order fulfillment and quick, easy order pickup are no longer options. There is no doubt that they are necessary for retailers’ survival.

A focus on fulfillment, shifting from the last mile to making the last few inches as convenient as possible – the physical handoff between retailer and customer – is where we’re seeing the next wave of innovation. The speed and simplicity of the online ordering experience have raised customer expectations. These expectations have been extended to order pick-up.

Shipping options (standard, two-day, overnight, etc.) are no longer a competitive advantage. Customers are willing to pick-up in store to get purchases more quickly while avoiding shipping costs. Using self-serve automation, lines are eliminated and no additional staff is needed to provide customer pick-up and returns.

By driving online purchases in-store, it’s proven that retailers increase foot traffic and in-store purchases. Customers spend seconds, not minutes, getting their purchases and returning unwanted goods. And all of these transaction details are tracked to help improve the efficiency of a retailer’s fulfillment operations.

For example, Kohl’s introduced click and collect in 2014 and today offers it at all 1100+ stores. Now the department store is evolving and enhancing this program. Kohl’s is using self-serve automation to make in-store pick-up and returns more convenient for their customers, their stores, and their store associates.


Beyond BOPIS to Fulfillment
For retailers still considering the best path to adding these programs, they should use continuous improvement to their advantage. Launching a project today means it can be improved upon tomorrow – made more efficient based on what’s been learned through the implementation process.

By reimagining their stores as both merchandising and streamlined, cost-efficient order fulfillment centers, retailers can optimize the customer experience and effectively compete with online retailers. This is certain to benefit the customer and the retailer today and into the future.

About the Author

  • Kent Savagefounder & CEOApex Supply Chain Technologies
    Kent Savage is a serial entrepreneur and inventor as well as founder and CEO of Apex Supply Chain Technologies. Widely recognized as an international expert in the industrial vending field, his vision helps companies become more efficient and productive. He has spent more than 30 years leading organizations devoted to dispensing, control and information technologies and has been awarded numerous domestic and international patents.