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4 Best Practices for Effective Store Fulfillment Initiatives

by Fred Schofield |

Retail brands have been hearing for years that omnichannel retail strategies like Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) and Ship From Store are growing exponentially in popularity. With 59% of consumers now interested in BOPIS-type shopping options, there’s no question that brands need to make order fulfillment from stores an integral part of their retail strategy, and invest in the resources and technology needed to adopt these strategies effectively and efficiently. 

Unfortunately, in their quest to become omnichannel, most retailers focus all of their energy on the “buy online” aspect of BOPIS, ignoring or underestimating the vital role that brick-and-mortar store locations play in online order fulfillment initiatives. Stores and in-store associates are left behind, with the primary focus shifting to digital channels and ever-growing tech stacks. While tech is certainly critical to any modern shopping journey, without buy-in from store teams, BOPIS and store fulfillment initiatives are doomed to fail.

In this blog, I discuss the four best practices that retailers can employ to align their eCommerce and in-store operations to achieve successful store fulfillment programs.

1. Understand your eCommerce customer base

In order to meaningfully embrace omnichannel retail strategies, there is one critical understanding that retailers must accept and promote within their organization: your shoppers online are the same as your shoppers in-store. The vast majority of customers utilizing click-and-collect or BOPIS features via your eCommerce storefront are the individuals you see in your stores regularly, opting for a different order fulfillment route. 

Promoting this notion is one of the most important ways that brands can drive buy-in and adoption of new digital initiatives at the store associate level. Frame technology as something that reduces friction in the buying process for your loyal customer base, offering them a smoother, more enjoyable experience. Then in-store staff members will understand that the people being hurt by a mismanaged BOPIS strategy are your familiar, loyal customers.

One useful tactic to encourage this understanding is to take a look at your list of top customers and see how many of them are making online or BOPIS purchases. Although it certainly varies, you’ll find that approximately 30% of your most loyal customers are taking advantage of online orders to pick up in-store or ship directly to their homes.

2. Modernize your store KPIs and attribution models to align brick-and-mortar and eCommerce initiatives

Should we attribute online sales to local stores? How should we measure the KPIs for stores  that assist with online sales? Eliminating friction between online and in-store operations is no small feat, but aligning both types of sales through modern KPIs and attribution models is key to achieving a successful omnichannel retail strategy. 

One common practice is to align stores’ responsibilities for handing returns with being credited for online sales in their area. If they’re expected to handle returns for local online orders, they should get credit for the online sales in their area to ensure satisfaction and incentivize stores to embrace the eCommerce program. 

Retailers must also create new KPIs for their stores that align with their unique business model. As omnichannel capabilities like BOPIS and store fulfillment become more commonplace, and part of shoppers' regular routines, brands must modernize their attribution models in a way that makes sense to them. One straightforward solution is to use postal codes to attribute online sales to local stores or create a bonus structure for the store team built around local online sales.

3. Prioritize a seamless implementation for in-store teams as you scale omnichannel initiatives

Remember - when your stores are busy, BOPIS is busy. Because your online and in-store customer base is really the same, busy seasons for brick-and-mortar store traffic correspond with an influx of online and BOPIS orders. Understanding this is critical, so you can be prepared to manage growing omnichannel strategies and have a solid plan in place for your in-store teams before they become overwhelmed.

As you roll out and scale store fulfillment programs, retail leaders within your organization must be clear and communicative regarding when and how the program is going to be implemented. Some important strategies that will ensure your BOPIS initiative is running smoothly right off the bat:

  • Build a routine and schedule that enables store associates to pick BOPIS orders at a time that makes sense. It’s tempting to fill orders first thing in the morning after they have accumulated overnight, but recognize that each store is different, and filling all BOPIS orders before the store opens may reduce necessary stock for in-store customers.

  • Have a designated BOPIS associate scheduled, especially during busy seasons. This should be an experienced, knowledgeable staff member.

  • Don’t let filling BOPIS orders deteriorate the in-store experience. Develop clear guidance on where orders should be picked from (i.e. overstock, bin stock, backroom, etc.) so they are not being picked from the main display.

  • Invest in software that provides real-time, accurate inventory data  so associates can look at a screen and see exactly where they should gather the items for a given order from. 

  • Help store teams figure out the minute details, and answer as many questions as possible at the start of the initiative.

4. Set realistic expectations regarding how quickly BOPIS orders should be ready for customers

With big players in the retail space offering lightning-fast delivery and in-store pick-up options, many retailers are left wondering what an acceptable turnaround time is for click-and-collect orders in 2022. While it can vary significantly depending on your business and your store flow, there are some best practices that merchants of all sizes can follow to stay competitive in the market.

Always try to underpromise & overdeliver on your BOPIS orders. It’s always better for customers to be surprised by a confirmation email saying their order is ready early than to be waiting for an order running behind. And promising a turnaround time of one hour, for example, is too quick considering the unexpected circumstances or shortages that can arise.

Aim to have most BOPIS orders filled within a window of 2-4 hours. It allows shoppers to pick morning orders up in the afternoon, and afternoon orders up in the evening, as many customers are using BOPIS to schedule orders around their workday in this fashion. Brands can also offer a premium service in which customers can pay more for a quicker turnaround time.

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These best practices are useful for retailers of all sizes looking to better align their eCommerce and in-store operations and create successful BOPIS and store fulfillment omnichannel initiatives. At the end of the day, best-in-class store operations are just as important as best-in-class technology if you want to provide a buzzworthy shopping experience.

Meet the Experts

Fred Schofield, Retail District Manager, Small Business Support

Fred has 25+ years of diverse retail experience, including 10+ years as a district and general manager at Best Buy, Michaels, Lowe's, Staples, and Barbecue World. He has substantial experience in all aspects of retail leadership, including sales, customer experience, client development, and store operations, which include store fulfillment, inventory control, merchandising, and loss prevention.