When ATMs first hit the Indian shores in the 1990s through foreign banks, they created quite a stir. Until that time, Indian consumers were only used to the process of standing in the long queues for withdrawing money.
ATMs changed it all, so much so that many thought the abbreviation stood for “Anytime Money” rather than “Automatic Teller Machine.” The rest is history.
Similarly, the retail industry has evolved from the early stages of buy-at-store through “touch-and-feel” to online shopping and home delivery. In fact, home delivery has been the crown prince of the retail industry since it started, because it struck a chord with Indian consumers.
Now, the time has come when you can collect your parcel just by swiping your debit/credit card at a pickup point, just like an ATM. If you still prefer home delivery and want to cling on to the concept of “waiting for eternity” for your parcel, you can stick to that. However, if you are seeking a more convenient option, anytime pickup can be the answer.
As the lines of brick-and-mortar, omnichannel and e-commerce are gradually blurring; retail logistics are gearing up for another major shift in the coming years. Though it requires a lot of work as even the “same day” delivery is merely in the testing phase in India, moving to anytime pickup may take some time. The implementation will, however, largely depend on retailers since the technology to roll out this concept already exists in the form of automated click & collect or automated parcel lockers.
Here we mainly focus on how offering anytime pickup to customers can boost retail sales and improve customer experience (CX).
The Changes that are on the Cards
Imagine on a typical Sunday morning; you are heading out to the nearest retail store to pick up your favourite cricket T-shirt or football jersey you ordered online. That’s the first thing you want to do after breakfast before getting into the household chores.
Just when you informed your wife that you would have a quick visit to the store, she exclaimed “That’s great! Can you pick up these items too that I ordered online?” You obeyed and quietly slipped into your car, momentarily forgetting about that T-shirt in the clutter of thoughts. You also felt relieved that picking up those household items would spare you from the Sunday evening shopping ritual.
This is where retailing is heading to; from a brick-and-mortar store to a retail distribution centre. Not just the talk of automated guided vehicles (AGVs), drones or augmented reality speed order picking are creating ripples, something apparently as simple as BOPIS- Buy Online Pick Up In Store is going to make consumers’ life easier.
A study carried out by Kibo and Multichannel Merchant reveals the effectiveness of this fulfilment method. Mystery shopper visits to 30 retailers that offer this service show that 90 percent retailers had the orders ready and waited for customers to pick up. The study also finds that 67 percent customers find pickup from physical stores easier and convenient after ordering online. Another survey conducted by the Boston Retail Partners company shows 78 percent retailers plan to implement in-store pickup service within the next three years.
It is surely a win-win situation as retailers can fulfil their orders faster and cheaper, and customers get the flexibility of picking their items at their own convenience, without paying shipping expenses. So, merging online and brick-and-mortar operations along with pickup in-store are likely to be future of retailing.
Here it would be worth mentioning that the retail giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon are already sprucing up their retail operations by creating the right balance of online shopping and BOPIS – Buy Online Pick Up In Store. Wal-Mart, for example, is offering a discount to customers for picking up an online order in a store. This “Pickup Discount” program has initially been offered on 10,000 items, which will later increase to more than 1 million items by the end of June 2017. Amazon, on the other hand, has been working on its secret “Project X” to roll out drive-up grocery stores.
Overall, the future shopping and retail distribution look bright and busy where cross-channel fulfilment will be the core of the retail operation.
How the Stores will Work as Retail Distribution Centres
Besides the typical e-commerce companies, an increasing number of omnichannel businesses are offering both online and in-store shopping experience to customers. Customers can use desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone to browse inventories, and choose items.
Some e-commerce portals and omnichannel companies provide the option of pick up either at the store or at an automated parcel locker terminal. Consumers can select an option based on their convenience. They can choose an option while checking out.
Collecting Parcel through Anytime Pickup
Once consumers place their order online, the item is fetched from the inventory and taken to a storage area. After the packaging process is completed, the item gets transported to the chosen store or locker terminal.
When an item is ready for pickup, customers will receive a text with a one-time passcode (OTP). They can visit the store or click & collect locker terminal, enter the OTP, collect the package, pay through a debit/credit card, and it’s done.
In the coming years, more and more brick-and-mortar stores would be turning their retail stores into smaller distribution centres. By offering the option of buying online and picking up in-store, physical retail stores would be equipped to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Everything Boils Down to Customer Experience (CX)
All the innovations and experiments have a sole objective, which is creating a great customer experience. That’s the only way to sustain and grow in the long run. Retailers know all too well that any chinks in their armour will drive customers away to a competitor. That’s why instead of being reticent, they need to keep working on closing the loopholes and simultaneously finding ways to develop a loyal customer base by offering services that stand out.
As the retail market share is more fragmented than before, retailers are more open to new ideas and technologies. This has resulted in some path-breaking concepts like “extended opening hours” and “automated forward & return” through click & collect services. The bottom line is, the more thoughtful retailers are, the more likely they deliver an exceptional customer experience.
By using the pickup in-store service, customers can drop in any time and pick their online orders from a physical store. In this way, shipping cost will be minimal and waiting time comes down to zero. In the U.S, retailers like Target and CVS have also tried curbside pickup services where customers don’t even have to step out of their car to collect their items. However, this service may have a negative effect on retail businesses as it prevents the scope of any impulse buying that customers may make while picking up an order in-store.
The catch is once reaching a store; customers are likely to buy some more stuff. After visiting a designated store for pickup, they may fancy a few other items and buy on the spot. From retailers’ point of view, in-store pickup is a way of attracting customers to a physical store and encourage them to add to their initial order. A study by StellaService, an American customer service company, 20 percent of in-store pickup customers at leading departmental stores like Kohl buy additional items.
It surely looks like BOPIS – Buy Online Pick Up In Store offers strategic and profit advantage to brick-and-mortar stores. However, the most obvious question that crops ups — will setting up many physical stores be cost-effective for them considering the substantial amount of investment required?
To curb cost and logistical hassles, retail companies can also integrate parcel lockers for having a smarter delivery process. Since bulk delivery is possible, the last mile challenge can be taken out of the equation and so does the unnecessary communication between customers and courier personnel.
If you are looking to create world-class customer experience by taking the concept of on-time delivery to a new level, we can help for sure. Dial +91-8882-760-760 or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and one of our representatives will reach out to you soon.