Purchase Path Deep Dive: Office Depot
There are several important aspects of having a successful buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) experience, starting with the obvious: how easy it is for a customer to make the purchase online - all the way through when they pick up the items in-store. Messing up even one small step in between could cause cart abandonment, the wrong item being selected, or customers arriving at the wrong pickup point, all resulting in frustrated customers.
Having an optimal BOPIS experience, on the other hand, can yield upsells and cross-selling opportunities, more sales, and happy, returning customers. As part of our new Purchase Path Deep Dive series, where we analyze the BOPIS strategies of retailers, we're taking a look at Office Depot.
Office Depot, like many other retailers, scrambled to put together a BOPIS solution in the wake of COVID. Given that Office Depot is a large company with dedicated teams to maintaining their robust website, we expected them to have this strategy down pat, one year after the COVID outbreak. What we learned, however, is that BOPIS is a difficult thing to get right, even for a retailer with lots of resources to throw behind it. Let’s take a deeper look.
Purchase Path Experience
With COVID changing the way we shop, the first step in a successful BOPIS experience is on your website. This is where you’ll either wow the customer with a fast and easy solution to their needs, or lose them to a competitor.
Unfortunately, Office Depot’s online experience is confusing to say the least.
In a recent Fisher study, 90% of online shoppers surveyed stated high shipping fees and home delivery that takes longer than two days will likely prevent them from completing a purchase online.
One of the biggest places we find companies drop the ball is not clearly marketing BOPIS to customers clearly and visibility on a company’s website - but on Office Depot’s, it’s super visible, clickable, and enticing for our experiment. When you visit Office Depot’s homepage, you see two calls to action for “Free store & curbside pickup in 1 hour” (Figure 1, A & B)
They also made incredibly clear on the homepage that the customer has next-day shipping and same-day delivery options. With the growing customer demands of getting their items fast due to the Amazon-two-day-shipping-effect, this is a phenomenal effort on Office Depot’s part.
Ease of Shopping
When you click either of the two “Free store & curbside pickup in 1 hour” buttons, however, you’re brought to a strange page that allows you to browse BOPIS items by category. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for (or how it’s categorized) or looking for multiple items, this is a confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming way to try and fill your cart.
In my case, I was looking for bubble mailers and packing tape, so I clicked the “office supplies” category. On the next page, I saw the two categories I needed: “Mailing, Packing, and Shipping” and “Tape and Adhesives.”
When I clicked “Mailing, Packing, and Shipping” to find my bubble mailers, I was brought to yet another page where I had to select “Mailers,” then another page to select “Bubble Mailers.” After going through all these steps, I landed on a page showing me available bubble mailers with no filter for in-store pickup. Eventually, I noticed there were filters on the side where I could select for “In Stock for Delivery,” “Next Business Day Delivery,” as well as “For Delivery,” “In Store,” and “For Store Pickup.”
I wasn’t certain what the difference between “In Store” and “For Store Pickup” were, but they had the same available quantities, so I selected “For Store Pickup”. When I clicked on the bubble mailer I wanted, I was then asked “One Time Delivery” or “Subscription Delivery” (Figure 3, A) This language is a little confusing when the customer has already gone through multiple steps of trying to make a BOPIS purchase, but I went ahead and clicked “One Time Delivery” and added it to my cart.
But here was the real shocker.
After all the clicking around and filtering in an attempt to make a BOPIS order, when I viewed my cart the item was defaulted to “delivery” instead of store and curbside pickup. When I added additional items to my cart I noticed each time the default was set to delivery - potentially making it a confusing, frustrating, and error-prone shopping experience for a customer looking to only make a BOPIS order.
Office Depot is missing the mark here by not having the customer select their delivery method before adding it to the cart. Home Depot, in comparison, displays this information incredibly effectively on their website - which is likely why more than 60% of their digital sales involved in-store pickup in both Q2 and Q3 2020.
After testing out this initial purchase path, I also tested the user experience using the search bar from the home page. I searched “mailing envelopes" which yielded over 200 results. I was shocked to see that only 10 products were available when I toggled the store pickup filter - none of which were what I was looking for. In fact, they were completely different options than what came up in my first search. When I started from scratch, remembering the more common term "bubble mailers" I was eventually able to find the items I needed.
With consumers browsing the aisles from their phone or computer instead of in-person, many retailers are trying to reimagine how to make up the lost revenue they used to get from cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Many retailers are bridging the gap by placing similar and complementary items on product and checkout pages - simulating what a customer would experience in-store.
Office Depot takes advantage of cart suggestions by providing these suggestions via product pages (Figure 3, B) and during checkout. The website also makes suggestions based on items that are frequently bought together as well as more items from the manufacturer.
Overall, the cart suggestions helped me find the right item as well as other products I needed to complete my project.
Besides the issues with items defaulting to “delivery” instead of pick up in-store (Figure 4), the overall checkout experience was pretty smooth.
Office Depot helps their customers with a “more to consider” section where they recommend similar products as well as recently viewed items - which was helpful.
If you selected (accidentally or otherwise) to have your items delivered, the first page of checkout prompts you to put in your address. Unfortunately, I could see how a consumer who thinks they've selected BOPIS might accidentally assume they're entering their billing address.
Alternatively, if all of your items are BOPIS, the first page of checkout confirms which store you selected to pick up from, a space to say if someone else will be picking up your items, and even an option to input your phone number to receive a text message when the order is ready for pickup. This was probably my favorite part of checkout and something more companies should adopt. In this case, I was having someone else pick up the item for me and was pleased to see there would be no confusion or frantic phone calls because they'd have his name on the items.
Overall the checkout process was super simple and easy.
Consumers make 7-10% of their purchases on mobile, which means retailers can't ignore the mobile experience - whether that's optimizing your website for mobile or having a devoted app like Amazon's Whole Foods or Walmart.
The mobile purchasing and checkout process on Office Depot's was similar to the desktop version- all of the same basic benefits and downsides applied.
According to a Deloitte report, retailers lose $144B annually due to out-of-stock inventory. Inventory and out-of-stocks have presented a huge challenge for retailers over the past year as BOPIS has exploded. Some have figured it out, while others have lost customers and screwed up their inventory.
Consumers have been vocal about their displeasure with how some retailers have handled out-of-stocks. In our research, we found examples where retailers intentionally marked out-of-stock items as in stock and replace them with another item - without notifying the customer beforehand. Needless to say, this irritates customers who, not only don't get what they paid for, are potentially receive items they dislike - or worse -are allergic to. This is a terrible customer experience.
Keeping accurate inventory is extremely difficult while managing multiple channels and an unpredictable, ever-fluctuating in-store inventory, making smart substitutions critical for delivering customer expectations for not getting the item they desired.
For this case study, all of the items I wanted from Office Depot were in stock and no substitutions were needed.
Post-purchase follow-up is a pivotal part of your BOPIS strategy and an opportunity for your business to really shine. After customers make a purchase online, they need to know when and where to pick it up.
I was impressed with Office Depot’s follow-up communication. As soon as I made the purchase, I got an email from Office Depot letting me know they received my order and were on the case.
I only ordered one thing, but less than 15 minutes later they notified me that my item was ready for pick up with detailed instructions of what to do when I arrived at the store. They also provided store hours and a confirmation of the pickup location, including a google map. For picking up the item, I had two options:
- Customers that wanted to pick up their items curbside could simply click the “I’m Curbside” button to alert associates the customer is outside and waiting.
- For in-store pickup, they instruct customers to look for an in-store pickup station and, if they have any issues, to click the nearby button and an associate will be with them shortly to help.
When I walked into the store I made a beeline for the register, not noticing the pick up station was actually tucked directly inside the entrance door. When I turned to talk to the cashier I noticed I’d passed it and double backed to go grab my item.
While I think this could be a great location for the pickup station: 1) it's really easy to grab and go 2) and located next to cheap add-ons next to the register, some floor signage or other displays would have been helpful - especially for those who chose BOPIS to reduce their COVID risk.
My item came in a completely sealed, clear bag which allowed me to double-check they picked the right items (and conveniently deterred customers slipping anything else in their bag on the way out).
Opportunities & TakeawaysIt goes without saying that the biggest opportunity for Office Depot to win customers is by improving their online experience. Let's take a look at a few other areas for improvement:
- Great post-purchase communication - Many retailers could take a page from Office Depot's post-purchase strategy. They make it super clear when and where to expect your order and provide important information like store hours and what to do when you arrive.
- Add more points of up-sell - When I added an item to my cart, a window popped up confirming it was added and showing how many items were in my cart. This could have been a good opportunity to cross-sell with other “usually purchased with” items.
- Consider moving the pickup display - Upon entering the store to collect my order, I walked right past their pick-up station looking. Vinyl floor signs or other signage to direct a customer to the right place would have been helpful and freed up employees to do other tasks.
What do you think? Are there other areas Office Depot could improve? Which retailer should we do a Purchase Path Deep Dive on next? Let us know!
A year ago, retailers were frantically adjusting their online and in-store experiences to adapt to COVID. It's time now to take a step back and look at what's working and what's not - before you're left in the dust by your competition.