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Omnichannel retailing: 5 Ways to optimize for buy online, pick up in store

Young woman checks her smartphone, while carrying shopping bags from picking up online orders at a retail location

An omnichannel approach is becoming a necessity for retailers who want to capture the empowered consumer. Whether shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, using a website or mobile app or contacting a retailer over the telephone, consumers expect a coherent, unified experience as they move fluidly from channel to channel.

That’s why some in the retail industry refer to omnichannel as “unified commerce.” It’s all about providing a seamless retail experience to customers. As Louis DeJianne, director of retail strategy at UPS, puts it, “Anything a retailer can do to provide additional options to the end consumer, making the shopping experience more convenient, is a direction that retailers need to go.”

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) is an increasingly popular yet challenging fulfillment option that can put a retailer’s omnichannel prowess to the test. Half of shoppers have used BOPIS in the past year, and 41 percent of those say they intend to use it even more in the future, according to the 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online ShopperTM study. The study also found that 41 percent of these shoppers have made additional purchases during the store pickup visit. That’s what gets retailers really excited.

The challenge for retailers is to effectively bridge the gap between online and offline to offer an efficient and convenient BOPIS customer experience. Here are five ways you can optimize your retail supply chain to do just that.

Utilize technology to help with inventory visibility

“Technology is the first challenge that needs to be overcome with in-store pickup,” explains DeJianne. Most omnichannel experiences rely on a heightened technological performance to function, so getting the right tools in place is crucial. “Inventory visibility is critical as you integrate omnichannel solutions,” he adds. For retailers, it’s essential to know what’s available and when – in the customer’s store of choice, in other stores and in DCs (Distribution Centers). Visibility and near-real-time communication is a must to close the sale. For most consumers, “out of stock is out of mind,” as the saying goes.

UPS offers numerous resources to help with retail inventory management, the most significant of which are UPS Ready®partners, who can help businesses understand inventory visibility and accessibility. There’s also the UPS Access Point®network, which allows retailers to provide a convenient alternative to store pickup with a network of 9,000 U.S. locations.

Improve delivery speed

Speed is extremely important to the BOPIS customer, with as many as 71 percent stating that quick service makes for the ideal pickup experience. To provide the type of experience your customers are looking for, make sure your stated delivery speed is quick, but realistic. If you display only slow delivery speeds, many customers will simply abandon their carts and shop elsewhere. In fact, some shoppers select BOPIS so they can get an item quickly at the store and for a lower price than having it delivered.

In addition, more and more customers want to make their pickup in a hurry. Twenty-two percent prefer curbside pickup and 53 percent prefer to pick up their items at the front of the store. It’s also important for customers to know exactly what’s required of them when they come to pick up their package. After purchase, be sure to communicate to your customers where they need to go within the store and what form of ID they need to bring with them.

Make the experience as convenient as possible

“Retailers are moving toward a more convenient way for consumers to pick up,” says DeJianne. By providing a retail experience that’s personalized to the needs of BOPIS customers, you can offer the sort of convenience that ensures customers keep coming back. For example, as many as 55 percent of respondents to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study would like a separate pickup line for BOPIS customers, while designated parking spaces are another great way of smoothing out the pickup process.

“Some retailers are experimenting with lockers in the front of the store,” explains DeJianne, “helping BOPIS customers avoid the lines and enjoy an easy-in, easy-out visit.” It’s also worth remembering that free shipping is one of the most significant reasons for choosing BOPIS. According to the UPS® Evolving the Omnichannel Experience in a Transformed World white paper, 35 percent of shoppers choose “ship to store” to qualify for free shipping. By providing free shipping to your customers, you can capture the subsection of consumers for whom this benefit is a priority.

Train your store associates

By establishing pickup policies and preparing your store associates to manage BOPIS, you can ensure that customers enjoy an optimal experience while they’re in your store. Setting up a special pickup process and training employees on making it a smooth, customer-friendly experience are critical. Some retailers train associates to use iPads or tablets to quickly assess inventory levels.

Many high-end retailers are encouraging store associates to present customers with specifically tailored upsell items based on their purchase data, which can be a good way of personalizing the BOPIS experience while creating additional purchase opportunities. With as many as 44 percent of shoppers citing the importance of associates who can serve BOPIS customers, you’ll want to make sure that your employees are mindful of the fact that – above all else – BOPIS customers want a speedy pickup experience.

Use stores as distribution centers

Many larger retailers are using the extensive retail space and stock rooms in existing stores to full effect by transforming them into distribution centers. By taking this approach, you can keep the stock nearer to its final destination: your customer.

Your stores can quickly transfer stock to other stores when needed for BOPIS, or even deliver goods directly to the homes of online shoppers. To do this well, it’s crucial to have full oversight of inventory to ensure stock is ready to be picked up and dispatched on time – a process that can be streamlined with inventory visibility software.

When sending goods directly to the shopper, you should also ensure your shipping method and materials denote a quality retail experience. While knowing how to ship professionally sounds simple, it requires training, but if executed correctly, pulling stock from a nearby store rather than a distant DC is a great way to develop a timesaving and cost-effective fulfillment process.

One of the great advantages of BOPIS is the fact that it marries digital transformation with the in-store experience: It’s an amalgamation of online and offline. By providing customers with a quick, convenient and personal BOPIS experience that’s powered by technology and insights from purchase data to create inventory accuracy, you can ensure shoppers enjoy an optimized experience when they come to your store to pick up their order.

Find out more about how UPS can help you optimize your retail supply chain for BOPIS.

Find Out More

  • Help for retailers

    What do you need to help your retail business succeed? Control over shipping speed? Better end-to-end visibility? Operations costs? UPS offers e-commerce, supply chain and order fulfillment solutions that work together to help you achieve your goals.

    Find out more about UPS’s retail solutions
  • Give customers more delivery control

    Your customers can sign up for UPS My Choice® service, letting them track their package, receive delivery alerts, define delivery windows and even re-route their package.

    Learn more about UPS My Choice
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