If the rapid deployment of vaccines across the country is any indication, life will soon return to normal. This means that mall-based retail stores and other businesses are going to begin to open up and operate at full or near-full capacity.
However, even though retail businesses are opening up across the country, the reality is that consumers have learned new shopping habits during the pandemic. And these habits, particularly in-store pick-ups, and curbside deliveries are not going away soon.
The new bar for shopping convenience has become addictive to shoppers. Therefore, customers have become used to the convenience that BOPIS and curbside pickups provide, and will most likely, want to continue using those options when they shop online long after the pandemic is over.
For retailers, this means that you cannot afford to relax on your BOPIS strategies. If anything, you need to drastically optimize your BOPIS options so it works seamlessly, and provides the customer with even more convenience.
Why Is This Important?
Well, think of it this way: Imagine you have a child who’s been fed with sugar-free cereals all their life. As far as that child knows, sugar-free cereals are fine… until they visit their grandma and are given cereals with sugar.
Imagine the glee, the joy, and delight with which that child will wolf down the cereal. For you, the parent, everything changes after that. You can be sure that kid will never eat their low-sugar cereals anymore.
That’s kind of the situation with BOPIS and curbside pickups. Customers have had a taste of incredible convenience, and are never going back to pre-covid delivery options if they have a choice. In fact, BOPIS and curbside delivery or pickup are so important that about 1 in 2 online shoppers make their buying decisions based on whether an online retailer or eCommerce store offers a BOPIS option.
Pre-covid, BOPIS was optional for retailers. Now? It is integral to the survival of every retailer. Retailers like Amazon, for instance, understand this, which is why the company has invested billions of dollars into building a more efficient supply chain and a powerful logistics framework. Walmart also invested $11 billion in bolstering its supply chain and integrating BOPIS.
Target, another leading retailer, plans to inject $4 billion every year to boost its digital processes, improve its in-store pick-up and drive-up program, and enhance its supply chain operations. This is probably why all three retail brands combined have significant retail market share.
What does this mean for smaller players in the retail space who do not have such “bottomless budgets”? You don’t need the same supply chain infrastructure as Amazon if you’re not operating at that level - in fact, you’re in a better position to pivot quickly and strategically.
The good news, however, is your retail brand can still go on to build out a scaled-back but powerful BOPIS supply chain solution that’s affordable, runs efficiently, and fulfills customers’ orders fast.
What Do You Need for an Efficient BOPIS Supply Chain Solution?
A number of retailers have had to jettison legacy systems and infrastructure because they were too archaic and couldn’t be upgraded to match newer, more efficient technologies.
Instead, these retailers opted for entirely new systems that provided an improved meld between physical and digital –“phygital”– omnichannel shopping experiences.
For other retailers with relatively newer systems, the struggle between either throwing out their old supply chain infrastructure or completely revamping it for more efficient outcomes was a real issue.
Many choose the latter because it was a cheaper option, had a lower learning curve, and could still get the job done, with a few tweaks and upgrades. Most of the supply chain upgrades included the implementation of the following:
Apps and Other Integrated Customer-Facing Interfaces
Most retail brands now have a website and/or an app. Both of these interfaces are mostly the first touchpoints for prospective customers –particularly now that many consumers are reluctant to make in-person visits to stores.
Your website and/or app has to be easily navigable and should include BOPIS features that are very easy to spot. For example, take a quick look at Best Buy’s app:
You couldn’t miss it if you tried. It’s clear from the get-go that the retailer has curbside and in-store pickups available. This should be the case with your retail brand too.
Another incredible customer-facing feature that you should have on your store’s app is augmented reality. This feature is currently in high demand among retailers whose products customers need to try on or see first before they can make a purchase.
When it comes to helping the customer experience the product they intend to buy, augmented reality does all the heavy lifting. For instance, if a customer wants to buy a coffee table, but wants to see if it’ll match his interior décor, he can easily use the augmented reality feature to see if the coffee table design or color will look good in the house.
Home Depot’s in-app AR feature, for example, is incredibly effective at helping customers picture a retailer’s products in their space. The feature also has in-store guidance.
So if a buyer is inclined to visit the store in-person, he or she can take a picture of the item they want to purchase, upload it to the app, and the AR technology will help the buyer locate the product in the store.
This feature makes it easier for customers to spend very little time in-store as they can just get the direction to the right aisle, pick up what they want and be out in 10 minutes or less.
Ox’s AI-powered machine learning-based augmented reality platform can help your associates do the same. From BOPIS and curbside pickups to improving warehousing operations, Ox is designed to help your supply chain function more efficiently.
Retailers who have added the Ox solution have seen their supply chain processes run smoother, recorded increased KPIs among workers, saved costs, and improved customer experience through rapid order fulfillment processes.
If you’d like a proof of concept for your retail chain, feel free to request a demo here.
Real-Time Inventory Feedback and Management
Retail inventory inaccuracies or mistakes can scuttle your BOPIS strategy, cause customer dissatisfaction and even kill your retail brand. With most retailers having a sizable part of their operating costs tied up in inventory, a bad or inefficient system can translate into significant losses for the company.
A good example of this is Target Canada. The supply chain incident involving an ineffective product forecast and replenishment system saw Target’s distribution centers packed high with pink Barbie SUVs, and the stores poorly stocked.
Put simply, there wasn’t enough demand for the pink Barbie SUVs, and the company couldn’t get the stock out fast enough.
Smart retailers, therefore, must have accurate and real-time inventory feedback between websites/apps, warehouse inventory, and order fulfillment at every point in time.
A small lag in one of these processes can lead to a messy inventory problem that’ll end up costing a retailer a ton of money. When fashion retailer, Ralph Lauren, had an acute case of oversupply in 2016, the company lost 50 percent of its profits.
This poor inventory management and control not only damaged the brand’s reputation but also saw the company’s products dumped in bargain bins. That was a really low point for a brand that had a reputation for high-end, quality clothing.
A smooth-running supply chain often has a fluid inventory management system that’s designed to keep products at optimal levels at all times. And a BOPIS platform like Ox can help improve your inventory visibility, so you know how many units of a product you have available all the time.
How Retail Brands Can Effectively Forecast Inventory Quantities
Providing BOPIS offerings requires a bulletproof inventory forecasting system that’ll reconcile what’s in-stock with customer’s orders. Bottom line, product demand must match the supply. So the inventory has to be incredibly accurate, otherwise, it could frustrate the implementation of a retailer’s BOPIS strategy.
To effectively forecast retail inventory trends and levels, retailers should do the following:
Include a Safety Buffer for Your Inventory
This will help cover product deficits and ensure that you have enough stock to meet your BOPIS orders. But ensure that you do not have excess safety stock or buffer as this can backfire and eat into your BOPIS profits. A good BOPIS and order management system (OMS), will provide real-time inventory data to prevent excess stock scenarios.
Setup Stock Rules with Inventories
Customers don’t like clicking through a product listing with an in-store pickup or curbside delivery option, only to find that the product is out of stock. Stock rules are designed to prevent out-of-stock situations.
For example, a retailer can set up a rule that a product can be listed as available for in-store pickup or curbside delivery IF there are at least 3 units in-store. Find the optimum number for your retail brand and set up those stock rules. This will help prevent customer churn.
Separate Your Product Demand Forecasts
Sometimes, eCommerce product demands are higher than mall-based or local store demands. So, you may need to ascertain the forecast demands for each aspect of your retail operation.
Then, you can lump the eCommerce and BOPIS demand forecasts together. Once that’s done, you need to set up your supply chain system so that the right amount of inventory for each product is available in the right stores.
This way, you can meet both the local demand and eCommerce and BOPIS demands. The good news is BOPIS fulfillment systems like Ox have the ability to provide this data, so you don’t necessarily have to do anything extra. Just query the data and you’ll have all the information you need.
Add Micro Fulfillment Centers to Your Supply Chain
More retailers are adopting the use of micro fulfillment centers (MFCs) because they bring the delivery process one step closer to the customer. As an effective last mile delivery solution, micro fulfillment centers can help boost your supply chain’s efficiency by cutting as much as $8 per order from your retail operations cost.
Smart retailers understand this, which is why there are over 2,100 planned MFC installations by 2025. The good thing about using MFCs is they can be easily integrated into your current supply chain management systems and can serve to provide customers with more options.
Naturally, micro fulfillment centers are usually automated goods-to-person picking solutions. But it doesn’t mean that they’re hard to set up. With retail BOPIS solutions like Ox, you can have a system that enhances your supply chain operations, automates the picking process, and accelerates the delivery of orders.
Can AR Help Your BOPIS Solutions Run More Efficiently?
The objectives of a BOPIS supply chain management solution are usually as follows:
- Focus on speedy deliveries (same-day pickup arrangements are ideal)
- Provide curbside pickup options for customers who may be reluctant to step foot in the designated pickup area inside the store
- Set up a seamless communication process that ensures customers get real-time updates on the stage of their orders
Augmented reality technologies like Ox can help make all of these objectives easy to attain and deploy. Ox machine learning-based augmented reality platform is powered by artificial intelligence, and designed to help your BOPIS supply chain initiatives run smoothly.
Our AR platform is dedicated to ensuring both retail staff and customer safety while enhancing the shopping experience for customers. The pandemic has changed the way retailer customers shop and workplace activities for staff. Handsfree and contactless payment options are ideal for customers now.
In fact, retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy already have these options enabled in their stores. So, customers don’t have to touch anything when they go to pick up their orders.
The same applies to warehouse staff. Ox’s AR-based voice picking, and vision picking not only improves picking accuracy, but it also provides excellent order management and fulfillment support.
Most retailers who survived at the height of the pandemic have already had to adapt and integrate solutions like Ox into their current supply chain systems. If you haven’t, you now have an idea of where to start.
The addition of Ox to your supply chain is a worthwhile upgrade that will save costs, improve workers’ productivity, enhance your retail supply chain operations and provide your customers with a seamless order fulfillment process.