In-store pickup, or BOPS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) is offering customers the chance to buy or reserve items for collection in bricks and mortar stores.
For any online retailer with a bricks and mortar presence, it's a very useful tactic, and one which can just give them the edge over online-only rivals like Amazon.
Here are 13 ways to improve the customer experience for in-store pickup services...
Make sure customers know about it
Econsultancy statistics show that just 17% of US shoppers used such services during the 2012 Holiday shopping season (compared to 40% of UK respondents) so perhaps it's worth it's worth increasing awareness, and selling the benefits of in-store pickup services.
So, why not let customers know about this option around the site, on headers, as Home Depot does in the example below, and on product and checkout pages.
Allow stock checks in local stores on product pages
This aids the in-store pickup process, but can also be useful for general research online, buy offline consumer behaviour.
Even if they don't reserve items online, they may just head into stores anyway, knowing they can find what they are looking for.
As this article from Kellog Insight finds, the ability to check inventory at local stores was a driver of in-store sales.
Allow for rapid collection
Provided the item is in stock, don't make customers wait for collection.
Here, Best Buy allows for instant collection when the item is available, or estimates a time when the item can be shipped to a store:
Explain the system clearly
Let people know how it works, when the items are available, and what to do when they head to a store.
Suggest alternative stores when stock is unavailable
List all stores in the local area and, if the customer's pre-selected store doesn't hold the required stock, offer alternatives at other local outlets.
Here, JC Penney allows customers to search for available items within a selected radius:
Don't even think of charging for it
Some retailers do charge for in-store pickup, but this is a mistake. Instead, retailers should focus on the benefits of the service, particularly the fact that it brings customers into stores where there is potential for cross-selling, and making much more than any delivery charge.
Make it nice and clear on the shopping basket page
If customers haven't seen the option yet, this will prompt them. It also offers a useful alternative if they feel shipping charges are too high.
Make it work on mobile
Mobile is a vital link in a retailer's multichannel strategy, as people are increasingly using their phones for product searches and stock checking while shopping.
So retailers who have a mobile site, and can display stock levels and allow customers to reserve items for in-store pickup, this gives you an advantage over rivals.
Having a mobile site is also vital for mobile search optimisation. As Google includes stock levels in some mobile shopping searches, the combination of stock level information, mobile site and the ability to reserve items can be a winner.
Suggest alternative products when items are out of stock
This makes sense in general on ecommerce sites, though I've yet to see it applied for in-store pickup services.
Let's say you search for a black 16gb iPad and it isn't in stock, maybe customers would go for a different colour or a 32gb version instead?
Use stock check information on search results pages
This is a great idea, used by Best Buy. Users are prompted to check local stock levels on site search results pages:
Locations are then displayed underneath product listings, while clicking on stores prompts users to add items to their cart.
Set a default store
This makes it easier for returning customers, as it just makes the next purchase a little bit faster. You can also make things easier for new visitors by detecting their location.
Think about the in-store pickup experience
It's important that retailers get the in-store experience right for customers.
This means promoting these services within stores, minimising waiting times, and offering clear signage for customers coming to collect their orders:
If stores have designated collection points for online orders, then this presents an opportunity for cross-selling with effective merchandising.
Provide alternatives to in-store pickup
Services such as Amazon Lockers mean that customers don't necessarily have to collect from stores, and provides alternatives to home shipping for online-only retailers.
For bricks and mortar retailers, there is a decision to make on whether the added convenience and choice for customers outweighs the potential for upselling which comes with in-store pickup.