It seems the debate about the future of stores has well and truly moved away from questioning their future existence to focus on how stores need to function in a multichannel retailing world.
This shift over the last couple of years is hugely welcome because it has quashed the ‘death of the high street’ brigade, and has instead centred attention on the value of stores and how they neatly connect the digital and physical aspects of retailing.
Buy online pick up in store (BOPIS), or click & collect as the service is known in some countries, has played a key role in ensuring shops have become fashionable once again. But why is that?
Convenience and flexibility
The ability to allow online shoppers to collect their orders in-store can reduce the time it takes to get hold of their desired item, which can be a huge plus point for customers with a pressing need.
For instance, the service came into its own at Sainsbury’s and Argos in June, when a spate of hot weather prompted a surge in demand for electric fans and paddling pools.
Having a connected commerce service like BOPIS in place meant stores were inundated with shopper visits as offices and households looked to get hold of products to help them cool down, as quickly as possible.
There are now 212 digital collection points in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, where customers can collect orders from third parties including Argos, pick up parcels from online marketplace eBay or gather pre-ordered clothing, food and general merchandise from the grocer. Sainsbury’s £1.4 billion acquisition of Argos parent company Home Retail Group was centred on strengthening its BOPIS potential to meet modern shopper demands.
Clarity and certainty
In fashion retail in particular, BOPIS has reinforced the store’s strong position as a place where customers can try before they buy.
To avoid receiving items that are the wrong fit or not quite as they appeared online, ordering them to store can enable consumers to make sure they are completely happy with the size, colour and general quality of goods before they take them home.
New Look is one fashion retailer reporting growing demand for its click & collect service, with a third of its online orders during its last financial year picked up in stores. This trend shows many shoppers are not prioritising digital over the physical; they often need to utilise both elements of a retailer’s offering during their purchase journey.
Cost effective fulfilment
It’s not something that customers care too much about, but multichannel retailing can be an expensive business for retailers – and the cost to serve figure for BOPIS often undercuts that of home delivery.
Walmart in the US and Co-op Food in the UK are among the retailers setting lower price ranges for products collected in their stores, compared to items delivered to customers’ homes. Walmart says it wants to reward shoppers for helping the grocer avoid putting delivery trucks on the road.
So, there you have it; BOPIS has reminded many shoppers why the store is so important to the shopping process – even in a digital world when items can be purchased with the click of a button or a swipe of the screen. And retailers view it as an attractive service because it drives people to their stores and can be cost efficient.
In today’s multichannel retailing world, stores are a fashionable item again – and BOPIS has been a suitable accessory.