When I learned that one of my favorite stores had introduced the purchase option to buy online and pick up in the store (BOPIS), I was delighted.

Then I tried it.

I expected to be able to pick up my purchase quickly, bypassing the checkout lines. Instead, I was directed to the back of the store, where I waited 20 minutes while an employee tracked down my order. After a few more similar experiences, I gave up and went back to my old way of shopping.

Both BOPIS and its counterpart BORIS — buy online and return in the store — present remarkable opportunities for retailers to connect their online and brick-and-mortar channels. Such initiatives turn physical stores into hubs that give retailers an edge over online-only competitors. But these types of programs create an expectation on the part of customers that their experience of switching between website and store will be seamless. And when retailers bungle the execution, customers become very frustrated.

By taking the following steps, retailers can ensure that BORIS and BOPIS initiatives help connect customers to their brands, rather than push them away.

Embrace Analytics

If retailers are going to let customers order products online and pick them up in the store, they simply must ensure that they have those products in stock. That’s true not only for customers who buy online, but also for traditional shoppers who come to the store looking for the same items.

Predictive analytics programs can help retailers adapt to changing patterns of demand that BOPIS initiatives can create. These programs serve double duty, preventing stores from missing out on sales because of out-of-stocks, and keeping both traditional and BOPIS customers happy. In addition to analytics, tools such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags can help in-store employees immediately locate products that BOPIS customers have ordered, preventing the type of delay that I experienced when I gave BOPIS a chance.

Enable Mobility

Retailers are increasingly equipping their floor staff with mobile devices and apps that connect to inventory systems and serve as points of sale. That gives associates the ability to check out shoppers from anywhere in the store, eliminating waiting for BOPIS and BORIS customers. Retail mobility initiatives have also been shown to significantly reduce theft, as they increase the presence of floor staff throughout the store.

Somewhat surprisingly, adoption can be a challenge, even for younger employees. Although workers typically use mobile devices in their personal lives, they are often more comfortable standing behind the cash register than freely interacting with customers on the sales floor. I recommend that when retailers launch mobility initiatives, they optimize their success by also providing high-quality employee training.

Develop a Strategy

Successful BOPIS and BORIS programs require more than a rudimentary connection between online and in-store inventory systems. Retailers must carefully think through a variety of potential customer interactions and develop a plan for how to handle each of them.

For example, a customer might order a bulky or expensive specialty item online and then return it to the physical store, where it typically isn’t stocked. Shipping the item back to a warehouse may not be cost-effective, but on the other hand, store managers may not want to turn their physical locations into bargain clearance centers for online returns. Thinking ahead to develop a solution for situations like this can ensure that BOPIS and BORIS programs work as smoothly for staff as they do for customers.

As retailers develop omnichannel strategies, I encourage them to keep the customer at the center of their thinking. The goal should not be to simply connect various retail channels, but to do so in a way that delights shoppers and simplifies their lives.

If you’re ready to embrace smart retail, learn more about CDW’s professional services or contact your CDW account executive.

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