Last updated: Retailers flex their flexible fulfillment muscles: BOPIS defined

Retailers flex their flexible fulfillment muscles: BOPIS defined


Listen to article

Download audio as MP3

Curbside delivery. Contactless payment. “Pop the trunk.” If you’ve wondered, “What is BOPIS?” these are all terms that apply.

The retail talk of the moment, from grocery and household goods to restaurants and even garden centers, is all about flexible fulfillment — as shoppers shelter at home and shrink from entering physical locations, they’re demanding every available omnichannel option that helps reduce risk of COVID-19.

What is BOPIS in retail?

BOPIS stands for Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store. BOPIS is a flexible fulfillment model in retail that allows customers to make purchases online and then pick up their items from a physical store location.

The best retailers offer their customers with several pick-up options or locations:

  1. From a designated customer service or pickup section
  2. Curbside 
  3. Retail lockers 

Flexible fulfillment isn’t new. Large retailers like Target have invested heavily in this area for over a half-decade, with ship-to-store, ship-from-store, and BOPIS options. Last year, there were reports that 25% of consumers would opt for curbside pickup in 2020. Those predictions, of course, have been blown out of the water now that consumers everywhere want and need to keep their social distance.

To the customer, something like BOPIS and curbside delivery appears simple: Just shop online and opt for in-store or curbside pickup rather than delivery. A confirmation email follows, then a phone call or location-based check-in alerts an employee to come out with packages. Pop the trunk and head home. 

But for most retailers, scaling these services during this crisis has created monumental challenges. It requires quick pivots to figure out how to turn traditional stores into fulfillment centers that can get consumers what they need quickly and seamlessly

How does BOPIS in retail work?

When you want to buy something from a store, you can visit their website or use their app. During the checkout process, aside from the traditional option to ship your order to your home or office, there are options such as “pick-up in store” or “pick up curbside.”

The store’s e-commerce platform checks in real time if the items ordered are available at a store near you. The store will let you know during the check-out process about the store location where you can pick up your order.

In the event the item isn’t available at a nearby store, some retailers will offer customers the option to ship the items from the warehouse to a local store. When all of the items in the order arrives, the store will inform you where to go in the store, usually a special area called the customer service or pickup section.  A store employee might ask for an order confirmation or a special code to make sure they give you the right things.

The second way is called curbside pickup, where you drive to the store, park your car in a special spot, and let the store know you’re there through their app or by calling a special phone number. Then, a store employee comes out and brings your order right to your car. It’s like having your own personal shopping assistant.

Another option are retail lockers. These lockers can be inside or outside the store, and they’re like little storage units just for your order. When your items are ready for pickup, the store sends a special code or barcode to unlock the locker to retrieve your items.

BOPIS is a fantastic way to shop because it gives you the convenience of buying online while allowing you to get your items quickly. You don’t have to wait for shipping, and you can see and touch your items before taking them home. Retailers love it too because it eliminates delivery costs and brings more people into their stores, giving them a chance to promote other products.

Examples of BOPIS: Flexible fulfillment seems easy, but requires digital prowess

Flexible fulfillment options also require retailers to have the right backend digital capabilities and the ability to nimbly switch gears.

Here are some examples retailers using BOPIS:

  1. Pizza Hut, for example, retooled its website and added contactless curbside pickup options, which shoppers can choose just by clicking a box during checkout.
  2. Shoppers can now order online, pick up in-store at Bloomingdale’s.
  3. Curbside carryout from the Container Store.
  4. Shoppers can take advantage of free store pickup at Office Depot ~ among many, many others.
  5. Bed Bath & Beyond may have struggled before COVID and has now temporarily closed most of its stores during the pandemic, but the retail chain is turning its resources towards flexible fulfillment options as its digital business surges. In addition to its four e-commerce fulfillment centers, it’s converting a quarter of its stores in the U.S. and Canada into regional fulfillment centers that use its inventory resources to assign orders locally and deliver quickly.

Needless to say, every U.S. shopper is becoming well aware of the flexible fulfillment options available in their area and chomping at the bit for more.

What are the benefits of BOPIS in retail?

Buy Online, Pick-up In Store, is a fantastic way of shopping that bring numerous benefits to both customers and stores.

Benefits for customers:

  • Convenience: BOPIS saves customers time and effort, as they can avoid long waits time involved with shipping.
  • Immediate access: Customers can get their hands on the items they want quickly. They don’t have to wait for their orders to arrive via traditional shipping methods; they can pick them up the same day or within a few hours, ensuring instant gratification.
  • Cost savings: BOPIS eliminates shipping costs for customers. They don’t have to pay extra for delivery since they are picking up their orders directly from the store.
  • Product in-stock guarantee: BOPIS guarantees that the items customers want are in stock before they make their purchase. This boosts customer satisfaction.
  • Easy returns & exchanges: Customers can simply visit the store’s customer service desk or designated pickup area, making the process quicker and more convenient.

Benefits for retailers:

  • Increased foot traffic: BOPIS brings more customers to physical store locations, boosting in-store traffic.
  • Increased in-store sales: When customers visit the store to pick up their online orders, retailers have an opportunity for to promote products for additional in-store sales.
  • Improved inventory management: With visibility into online orders, stores can optimize their inventory levels and avoid overstocking or understocking items.
  • Cost savings: Instead of individually shipping items to different customer locations, stores can consolidate orders for pickup, reducing shipping expenses and improving overall operational efficiency.
  • Customer engagement and satisfaction: BOPIS allows stores to engage directly with online customers during the pickup process. Store associates can provide personalized service, answer questions, and ensure a positive customer experience.

BOPIS is a win-win for everyone involved, making the shopping experience more efficient, enjoyable, and mutually beneficial.

The future of CX requires clicks: Contactless payment, simple delivery

Some retailers are going even further by only offering pickup options at physical stores. A Kroger store in Cincinnati, for instance, has converted to pickup only due to the unprecedented surge it has seen in online orders, creating a location that it says is ideal for seniors and those at higher risk. And Best Buy recently announced that its stores would now operate for curbside pickup only, in addition to its online delivery services. 

Contactless payments are also seeing a big boost as consumers vote with their pocketbooks for touch-free shopping. Burger King is working to make its drive-throughs contactless for both payments and pickups while Florida-based grocery Publix has rolled out tap-to-pay registers at its 1,200 locations.

The question is, will this all last? When economies open up and physical stores return to business, will flexible fulfillment still reign?

Only time will tell, but it’s hard to imagine all this newfound consumer convenience going away. Even when we can all freely walk the supermarket aisles again, perhaps it will still be nice to just pop the trunk. 

Fast, flexible e-commerce
is just a few clicks away

Share this article


Search by Topic beginning with