The retail industry has endured a rollercoaster of market conditions over the last few years. This peak has many retailers concerned that consumers will reduce their spending, and it comes at a time when retailers are already under a lot of pressure. High inflation, a potential recession, labor shortages, rising costs of transportation, supply chain challenges, bloated inventory — have all taken their toll and continue to do so. Many retailers are zeroing in on cost containment and rethinking how much flexibility in channels, fulfillment options, payment options, and return policies they can afford to offer customers.
As they do, it’s important to remember that flexibility is a core element of customer experience today.
Why Flexibility Matters Now
Flexibility, as defined by offering customers choice of their preferred channels, fulfillment options, and easy returns, has become a staple of the 2020s retail experience. The pandemic led retailers to come up with innovative strategies to make shopping possible for customers. The more flexible and convenient they made it, the more they could compete. Customers grew accustomed to these flexible options — and now, post-pandemic, they continue to expect these ultra-flexible options.
Customer experience has been built around convenience and ease. To consumers, flexibility is all about having brands meet them where they are, wherever they are, in their daily lives. As digital has become interwoven into every aspect of life, omnichannel shopping has become the expected norm. The pandemic fast tracked brands’ digital transformation by five to 10 years as they built out their omnichannel capacities quickly — weaving digital and instore shopping with traditional and store fulfillment options.
Today, customers expect a seamless experience that intertwines eCommerce and physical store shopping, with fulfillment options that work best for them. They also desire flexible payment options, like buy now pay later (BNPL), and easy returns.
Retailers are competing on customer experience and price points. They are also wrestling with how to contain and reduce costs and boost profitability in an uncertain market. Offering every option possible may no longer be feasible or financially sustainable. As they work to redefine what their customer experience will look like during peak and into the post holiday shopping season, retailers can harness the power and cost savings of popular fulfillment options: buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, return in-store (BORIS).
Store Fulfillment and Returns Create Flexibility
Both BOPIS and BORIS have proven to be popular with customers. But beyond the advantages to customers, they also offer retailers cost-saving benefits:
BOPIS: Buy Online, Pickup In-Store
BOPIS enables shoppers to buy online and pick up their orders at their local store or a store location of their choice, often the same day. They may also often choose curbside pickup at their selected store.
Benefits of BOPIS
Customers avoid shipping costs, delivery wait times, and having to ship returned items. They can see and handle their purchases before taking them home and return them on the spot, if desired.
Retailers save significantly on transportation and shipping costs, boost upsell/cross sell, and increase basket size as customers buy additional items when they pick up orders. During peak, BOPIS boosts retail sales by empowering customers to buy online and pickup in store past shipping cut off dates for holiday delivery.
How BOPIS Works
Customers that choose BOPIS order online. During checkout, they select a pick-up store location. Customers already shopping in the store may also go online to search inventory and make online purchases in addition to their instore purchases.
BOPIS orders are fulfilled via stock in the local store, or ordered from another store or warehouse. Customers are notified by email or text when their order is ready for pickup. Retailers often assign employees for BOPIS pick and pack, and if it’s curbside, delivery to the customer’s vehicle.
Offering BOPIS requires brick-and-mortar locations, eCommerce infrastructure, a modern cloud-based order fulfillment management system, additional inventory space instore, extra staffing and designated parking space. BOPIS also requires the ability to scale during peak seasons and sales events.
BOPIS depends on having real-time inventory management capabilities in the order fulfillment management system, that is integrated across websites and apps. This system needs to be accurate to inform customers in their buying decisions. Any disconnect between what the customer sees online and what is available in the store will damage the customer experience.
For retail stores with these capacities, BOPIS can be a sound option to continue to provide flexibility, improve customer experience, drive competitive advantage, and offset or lower shipping costs from distribution centers.
BORIS: Buy Online, Return In-Store
Returns is a major part of eCommerce: online orders have a 30% return rate compared to ~9% in brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, 67% of shoppers check the return policy before purchasing; 92% state they will buy again if the return process is easy. 79% want free return shipping. These facts stand even as retailers are rethinking their return policies to put parameters around them.
Reverse logistics is expensive; finding ways to decrease the need for returns by improving targeted marketing and recommendations accuracy; putting tighter policies around returns, such as charging for returns and restocking fees; and tightening return timeframes are all in the works for many retailers.
BORIS shoppers buy online and return purchases to a local store or designated location — making returns convenient, easy, free — and saving retailers significantly on reverse logistics operations.
Benefits of BORIS
Customers often find it simpler to return online merchandise to a physical store during regular shopping trips. It saves them time and the cost and hassle of shipping. They also get a more personalized experience and can discuss with the store associate any concerns over the purchase, while the associate can make alternative purchase recommendations.
For retailers, BORIS enables them to save on the cost of reverse logistics and gives them the opportunity to increase basket size when shoppers come in to replace the item they’re returning and often buy additional items.
During peak, BORIS keeps merchandise closer to the customer, saves on reverse logistics transportation costs, and makes returned inventory available for resell very quickly. Customers feel the flexibility of easy, free returns while the retailer saves on costs.
By giving customers a free return option instore, online retailers that need to charge for return shipping can do so without creating a negative impact on customer experience.
BORIS requires a robust cloud order fulfillment management solution to provide real-time inventory tracking and to coordinate reverse logistics. The online customer experience needs to be well coordinated with the store experience, so customers have a smooth experience. Dedicating space to online returns also adds to the easy process, and store associates should be trained to make product recommendations to customers at the returns counter.
Both BOPIS and BORIS are store fulfillment options that many retailers already offer — harnessing their value can help retailers cut costs without sacrificing the online shopping experience during peak.
How Radial Supports Store Fulfillment
Radial Store Fulfillment enables retailers to meet their customer expectations for BOPIS and BORIS options. As one of the top providers of Store Fulfillment technologies, Radial provides the training and expertise, honed by hands-on partnerships with retailers, to get operations and inventory moving.
Radial can support your BORIS and BOPIS during peak.