This article was originally published on the SkuVault website here. It was written in collaboration with our partners BigCommerce, ShipStation, and SkuVault.
As states begin to reopen non-essential businesses in the coming weeks, the omni-channel fulfillment method of buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) will prove essential.
The Coronavirus flipped the retail supply chain on it’s head. Some businesses were impacted more than others. But one thing remains consistent between the lot: an omni-channel business model that includes BOPIS is now a necessity, not an option.
Retailers have had to adjust how customers make purchases. By now, we’ve all used curbside pick up orders, delivery, or BOPIS to get the job done. In Texas, for example, retailers will reopen without allowing customers to enter the store. Instead they will operate as “retail to-go.” With limited options, an omni-channel approach via methods like BOPIS is the new reality for everyone.
Although states are reopening businesses in phases, the requirement for an omnichannel strategy remains the same as consumers adapt to new means of product purchase. Possibly for the rest of the year. So how can you do this successfully and quickly?
This post will define how retailers can allocate inventory to fit a BOPIS model in time to keep their business afloat with the help of an inventory management system like SkuVault, an online store platform like BigCommerce, a shipping solution like ShipStation, and a channel management software like SellerActive.
Rise of the BOPIS Model
The BOPIS fulfillment model graced the eCommerce world a few years ago with a warm welcome. The convenience factor makes it easier for customers who want to shop online without a shipment waiting period, and has delighted business owners with higher profit margins.
In the past it has been a nice perk for shoppers, but in the age of pandemic, it’s more of a necessity to operate than an option for delivery method.
Essential businesses like groceries had to quickly adopt BOPIS, if they weren’t already, as more people grew weary of shopping in stores. Some are also creating “dark stores” – automated mini warehouses inside regular stores to account for the influx in deliveries and pickup orders.
Apparel retailer Levi’s implemented a similar approach through something they’re calling ship-from-store. To avoid huge losses, they’re now shipping eCommerce orders from brick and mortar stores to move inventory trapped in closed stores.
These are the kind of stories we will continue to hear as new social distancing regulations conduct how retailers do business.
Implement Omni-channel With an IMS
Because an omni-channel approach introduces new streams of inventory fulfillment, it’s critical that retailers create strict inventory control. There’s no way to introduce this kind of fulfillment model using a manually updated spreadsheet.
The last thing you want, especially right now, is for a customer to go to your site, order, show up to your newly opened store, and arrive at a lost, incorrect, or completely unfulfilled order.
To prevent this, retailers can implement an inventory management system like SkuVault to maintain and gain complete inventory visibility and control.
For starters, users can utilize demand planning and inventory allocation with an IMS so that employees are aware of what has been sold and is awaiting to be picked up or delivered, as opposed to backstock inventory that has not been purchased. Therefore, staging goods becomes easier and you’re left with less dead stock and lost money.
Barcode Scanning and Quality Control
When you’re allocating inventory for omni-channel, it’s also important to scan in and out each product barcode for each type of fulfillment. Barcode scanning ensures each SKU and it’s associated product details are automatically loaded inside the IMS, eliminating the risk for manual error. Every action related to that item is accounted for and you can easily login to see where the item’s location, quantity, and status.
There’s no room for human error.
Tight quality control is another step inside an IMS that catches order discrepancies before they’re sent to shipment. So instead of giving one customer an extra t-shirt on accident, you give the right amount and correct order the first time. And in a time when people want minimal human contact, getting it right the first time is essential.
Inventory is at the heart of your operation, but there are other software solutions that have to be in place to run an omnichannel solution. SkuVault connects to a network of software integrations, like BigCommerce, ShipStation, and SellerActive, to get every piece of your business aligned.
When you connect additional software to an IMS, inventory data is automatically synced through the integration. This creates accurate inventory information across the board. For example, when inventory quantities update inside the IMS, it’s automatically synced to the channel management tool and those subsequent channel listings are updated as well. This streamlined flow of information is important for an omni-channel business that needs to adapt to new fulfillment channels.
Build Your Online Store to Enable BOPIS with BigCommerce
Regardless of if you’re using an eCommerce platform already or if you’re shopping around for one for the first time, if you’re going to make BOPIS a part of your strategy going forward, there are a few things you should ensure your eCommerce platform can do.
When vetting potential platforms, make sure you find one that supports and facilitates omni-channel selling and that allows you to create a connected online and offline experience. The most important thing is that your platform integrates seamlessly with your ERP or IMS systems.
Finding the Right Solution for BOPIS
By connecting all aspects of your retail fulfillment system, you can create real-time analytics on order statuses, workflows, overall cycle time, locations, and customer engagement. This will allow you to provide real-time visibility into your available inventory.
Making sure customers have a clear and reliable picture of what’s available for purchase in-store will be a huge part of creating a BOPIS plan with high customer satisfaction. On the flipside, not providing that visibility is a recipe for low satisfaction and bad reviews from unhappy customers.
Ideally your eCommerce platform should also provide a strong mobile experience. With more than 7 billion mobile devices in active use, mobile commerce is a growing trend in eCommerce sales. People use their phones for everything from product research (sometimes even from inside your store!) to quick on-the-go purchases.
An eCommerce site optimized for mobile is especially necessary with BOPIS. After all, you know shoppers won’t be at their computer when they’re on their way to the store to pick up their merchandise. Being able to provide real-time updates through mobile push notifications to let them know the status of their order and about last-minute changes or delays in their order is a necessary part of creating a positive overall customer experience.
How BigCommere Serves Omni-channel Retailers
One solution you should consider as your next ecommerce platform is BigCommerce. BigCommerce is an open SaaS ecommerce platform that provides a rock-solid foundation for building your store. With strong performance and security and a host of built-in, enterprise-grade eCommerce features, BigCommerce makes it easy to launch quickly and scale with your growth.
The platform also has mobile-optimized themes and mobile pages built for higher engagement and conversion.
BigCommerce encourages an open ecosystem so you can use best-in-breed partner solutions to complete your tech stack. For example, the platform integrates easily with SkuVault for seamless inventory management. Ultimately, we make it easy to give customers more options for engaging with your brand offline, online, and everything in between.
Create a BOPIS Shipping Solution with ShipStation
Because part of your multichannel strategy can include brick and mortars, the rise of BOPIS can actually create a more seamless fulfillment experience. Gaining a regional customer that is satisfied with their buying experience can only increase your business.
We’ve all seen how local companies have adopted in-store pickup strategies. Some have been more successful than others, and offering something like “same-day pickup” for in-town customers can really be the difference between your customers choosing you over another local competitor. A shipping platform like ShipStation can help you prioritize these local pickup orders.
How to Add BOPIS to Your Shipping Options
If you already have a website, adding an option to buy online and pick up in-store can be a simple add-on. When these orders import into ShipStation, you can set up service mappings based on the requested shipping option a customer selected during checkout.
If you custom map something like “Pickup,” you can filter these orders within ShipStation and exclude them from your batches that are being shipped out. Moreover, you can use these service mappings to create automation rules that create a separate priority for these orders.
How ShipStation Serves Omni-channel Retailers
Common ways that ShipStation users automate in-store pickup is to create an alert for these orders and assign them to someone separate from a warehouse worker that packs outbound parcels. Since these require no shipping label, you can message someone working a retail counter or front desk to either come pack the needed items into a to-go bag or to pick up the finished, packed box.
Either way, you can and should automate these pickup orders to have a separate shipping confirmation email. A standard “Your order has shipped” email is not appropriate for your local customers, so finding a softer, more friendly tone is important.
Furthermore, you can create an automation rule to send the customer an email once an order has been placed and imported into ShipStation. This gives you the opportunity to thank the customer for ordering from you and that they’ll be receiving an email once their order is ready for pickup.
Once you are ready to mark the order as shipped in ShipStation, this will automatically send the customer an email alerting them that the order is ready for pickup. Now, the customer is ready to pick up their order, and you can send back the shipped status to the order source to deduct any appropriate inventory and close out the order.
Diversify Selling Channels with SellerActive
Diversify, diversify, diversify. It’s become more apparent than ever merchants need to diversify where and how they sell. The risk of selling through one outlet or one shipping methodology has put a lot of companies out of business or at high risk. Adopting the omni-channel strategy of BOPIS is not only another selling outlet, but a similar way to provide that quick and convenient approach a seller is looking for.
Adding BOPIS to Sales Channel Offerings
Sellers need to adapt. Discovering more outlets to meet the demand of the buyer will not only increase sales, but better allocate your risk. If someone calls your store to make a purchase or buys online to pick up later, sellers can create an order in the SellerActive application, which will update all the other selling channels. The struggle many sellers run into is overselling or not having an efficient business model in place to keep up with these new demands. Don’t let the lack of adoption result in suspension on other sales channels.
How SellerActive Serves Omni-channel Retailers
SellerActive allows merchants to sell across marketplaces and websites, while providing tools to maintain inventory levels and driving real-time marketplace prices back to their websites.
We strive to make the online selling experience more efficient, which redirects our clients time to focus on customer service and buying products. We automate the tedious tasks on the marketplaces such as listing, repricing and real-time inventory adjustments.
The drastic change from traditional to digital has left many retailers in the dust. However, some are thriving because they adjusted to the times when omni-channel gained popularity. Regardless of which bucket you fall into, the need for a BOPIS model is critical to succeed in the coming months. Creating a tech stack to support this model is just as important.