What is BOPIS and how can it help you?

With online shopping dominating the retail industry, it has become more difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to compete.

However, there is one all-important truth regarding modern consumers. We all want things fast and cheap. Sometimes, consumers aren’t willing to wait even a single day to get what they want. This makes the next-day shipping options offered by services like Amazon Prime a torturous wait.

There is a way that retailers with physical locations can cash in on this impatience, offering instant gratification through a mutually-beneficial and convenient experience.

Enter BOPIS.

While the acronym may sound silly, BOPIS is offering a lifeline to struggling retailers looking to increase foot traffic while making the shopping experience more convenient for customers.

But what is BOPIS? How can it help your shopping experience? What are the benefits and drawbacks of BOPIS for retailers and customers alike? And finally, which major retailers are offering this service?

That’s what we’re going to cover in this article.

What is BOPIS?

BOPIS is an acronym that stands for buy online, pick up in-store. There’s no hidden messaging in there. It’s exactly what it sounds like. This service allows you to purchase items online via a website or app and actually take possession of said items in a physical retail location.

An image showing the definition of BOPIS

Here’s how it works. First, the consumer purchases a product via the internet. This could be through an online store accessed via a computer or smartphone. It could also be through an app with an eCommerce component. They go through checkout like normal, but instead of shipping the item to their home or business, they select an option to pick it up in a store.

When the item arrives, the customer goes to the retail location and takes their items.

There are several locations they can use to collect their purchases.

First, they can choose to pick up their items inside the store, typically from a customer service desk or pre-designated area.

Then, there’s the option to choose curbside pickup. This is also known as BOPAC, which stands for buy online, pick up at curb. A sales associate will meet you outside the retail location and give you your item there. This became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were wary of entering physical stores.

There’s also carside pickup. In this scenario, your items are delivered straight to your vehicle. Typically, you park in a designated location and share the number of the spot you’ve parked in and what your car looks like with the store. A retail associate then brings the items out to your car and might even load them in for you, depending on your preferences and the store's rules.

Finally, there are retail lockers, which are located either inside or outside the store, depending on the location. Your items are placed into the locker, and you’re given a scannable QR code to get them out.

 Retail lockers at Best Buy

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Options for BOPIS are typically listed under additional shipping options when checking out online. Other than making that selection, the checkout process is exactly the same as ordering something delivered to your home.

Of course, BOPIS is only for retailers that have an online store and a physical retail location. This is not something generally intended for online-only businesses, as there would be no place to pick up orders.

How does BOPIS work in retail?

In the world of retail, BOPIS becomes available when the item a customer is buying is in stock at a local store. Once the order is placed, a sales associate receives the order in the store and retrieves the item, preparing it for pickup.

This entire process usually takes somewhere between one and three hours. In that time, the store receives the order, processes it, and fulfills it.

An image showing how BOPIS works in retail

Of course, a store being out of stock on an item doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t offer BOPIS. There are also ship-to-store options when items are not in stock. However, it should be noted that this process is typically going to take a few days, much as it would when shipping an item to a customer’s home.

BOPIS can also be used for returns. In this case, it’s known as BORIS, which stands for (you guessed it) buy online, return in-store.

Another variation of the BOPIS system is called ROPIS. This stands for reserve online, pick up in-store. With BOPIS, you’re completing a sale before you actually leave to pick the item up. However, with ROPIS, you don’t pay for the item until you pick it up.

How stores implement BOPIS for consumers

Consumers interested in utilizing the BOPIS service might be interested to learn what it takes for stores to implement this option. It might seem on the surface like BOPIS is a fairly straightforward and easy-to-implement process, but not every company can have it.

For starters, BOPIS requires that a website-based store also have a brick-and-mortar location. This makes sense on a very basic level, as you need a location to actually obtain your items if you want to pick them up in a store.

Some online services have been known to partner with certain stores that aren’t affiliated with them to offer store pick-up options. However, these are typically buy online and ship-to-store since you’re not actually pulling from the host store’s inventory in real-time. This includes websites such as Amazon, which maintain a range of self-serve lockers in convenient locations, such as gas stations.

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That brings us to the next feature retail stores need to implement BOPIS for customers. They must be able to offer real-time inventory solutions. When you look for something online, the website knows whether the store has it in stock. If someone in the store purchases an item, it vanishes from the online store.

This ensures that there isn’t any confusion or frustration in the BOPIS process.

When offering BOPIS, a retailer must make sure that they have a clearly-defined location where consumers can come to pick up their items. This is typically a customer service desk, which can sometimes have a long line of disgruntled customers having issues.

That’s why it’s also a good idea to offer some of the other options we’ve already discussed.

If a store offers curbside pickup, it needs to ensure ample room on the curb to create a BOPIS location to meet customer expectations. It shouldn’t be blocking a fire lane or causing other customers to inconvenience themselves or put themselves in danger.

Then there’s the carside delivery option. For this to happen, the store needs a pretty substantial parking lot. This is why you normally see options like this at places like Walmart or Target, where the parking lot is large enough to dedicate some real estate to pick up orders.

Retailers will have to block off some parking spots and number them. That way, customers will know where to park when they want to receive the ordered items. It’s also a good idea to have your associates offer to help the customer load their car. While it’s not necessary, it’s a nice way to sweeten the experience.

Finally, we have the BOPIL option. This is becoming more popular since the COVID-19 pandemic when people wanted to avoid entering locations and interacting with other people. BOPIL makes the entire ordering process from purchase to pick up completely contactless. The store just has to make sure that it has the lockers and that they’re in working condition. The last thing they want is to have faulty hardware ruining the experience for customers.

The benefits of BOPIS for customers

There’s a lot to love about BOPIS from a consumer standpoint. First and foremost, it’s a more convenient option. You don’t have to worry about waiting for your items or having them left on your doorstep when you’re not home.

A list of the benefits of BOPIS for customers

It’s pretty near to retail instant gratification, combining the convenience of the online shopping experience with the accessibility of the in-store environment.

As a consumer, you can make your purchase selections at home, in the comfort of your own environment. You won’t be bothered by other people, and you won’t be influenced by random shiny items sitting tantalizingly on the shelves around you.

When you buy in this way, you’re less likely to overspend. You also won’t have to wait in one of those maddeningly long checkout lines to make a purchase and leave with your items. Completing a transaction is as simple as one click, then you’re off to the store a little while later to claim what’s now officially yours.

There’s also less exposure to other people. We’ve all just suffered through two years of a pandemic culture in which no one wanted to be anywhere near anyone else. Many people still have anxieties surrounding crowded environments and look for ways to avoid the aisles of a Walmart superstore location.

In some situations, such as BOPIL or curbside delivery, you don’t even have to enter the store. In the case of car delivery, you don’t have to leave the car.

BOPIS has become especially popular for staple shopping like groceries. Many people love the way companies like Walmart have made grocery shopping easier. You simply select your groceries on the Walmart app, pay through the app, and then drive to the store at a pre-determined time to have your groceries brought right to your car.

Grocery Shopping on the Walmart App

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Finally, there are no shipping fees for BOPIS purchases. This saves shoppers a ton in pointless fees and frees up more budget for the items they want.

The challenges of BOPIS for customers

BOPIS is still a relatively new system, so it’s not perfect just yet. Despite that, the benefits still far outweigh the challenges in terms of convenience and effectiveness for consumers.

A list showing off the challenges of BOPIS

However, we do need to talk about some of the drawbacks that might give you pause before selecting BOPIS at checkout.

For starters, there are technical issues that could plague the BOPIS experience. If your internet connection is weak or the retailer’s site/app is experiencing issues, it could make the shopping experience frustrating and tedious. Then you have people who just aren’t good with technology or senior citizens who don’t understand it.

While we might have listed not having to enter a store as a positive for consumers, there are some people who might see that as a drawback. Some folks thrive on the hustle and bustle of a busy store environment. Ordering online might take away from that all-important in-store shopping experience. Thankfully, no one is forcing those people to use BOPIS services, so if they really want the in-store experience, that’s still an option.

BOPIS usually requires selecting a pick-up time, and if it’s a busy day, there may be no times left. Or you might be pigeon-holed into a timeslot that’s inconvenient for you. On top of that, not every store has the ability to offer BOPIS, so if you’re set on utilizing the service, it might mean cutting out some of your favorite shopping locations.

What’s more, there could be a killer sale at a store that only offers in-person shopping. If that’s the case, you’ll have to forego the BOPIS experience and brave the world of in-person retail once again.

The benefits of BOPIS for retailers

While BOPIS might be wonderful for consumers, retailers aren’t just offering this out of the kindness of their hearts. There’s a wealth of benefits that retailers can enjoy by implementing this service, and it’s important to understand those when trying to get a full picture of how BOPIS is impacting the retail landscape.

For starters, BOPIS is a highly innovative way to get more traffic without overloading stores. They’re able to sell more items and move more inventory without increasing traffic in the aisles or lengthening checkout line waits.

Retailers are also integrating technology into the shopping experience, which is something that consumers in 2022 desperately want. They’re effectively creating an omnichannel experience for their customers, where the website and physical locations are intrinsically connected to one another.

60% of millennial shoppers expect a consistent experience across platforms, seamlessly integrating the online shopping platform with the physical retail store. BOPIS is forcing more retailers to cater to that wish, making them more appealing to the largest consumer demographic in the world right now.

A profile of millennial shoppers

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With customers shopping online and then picking up items in the store, companies are given an additional marketing channel. They’re able to push ads through the online store. If you buy one item, the app can then recommend several other items that you might be interested in based on your buying habits.

The existence of BOPIS also allows retailers to compete with Amazon and other big eCommerce retailers. Amazon has been decimating the retail world since it exploded in popularity, but BOPIS gives some of our favorite retailers the chance to fight back.

The ability to offer same-day order fulfillment is a huge part of that competition. Amazon is often praised for offering free next-day shipping for Prime members, but receiving your items that same day is a huge bonus that adds instant gratification to the mix.

Grocery retailers are finding BOPIS a huge bonus because it allows them to digitize the grocery shopping experience. On the Walmart grocery app, for instance, you can keep a digital shopping list of all of your favorites, making it easier to re-order your essentials.

A digital shopping list on the Walmart app

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BOPIS also improves the safety of retail locations by lessening foot traffic in the aisles. There are fewer human traffic jams and less exposure to germs and bacteria.

These retailers also get to spend less on shipping costs, which can really add up over time.

Also, while most people are just coming to the curbside or customer service desk, BOPIS still brings more people into retail store locations. That makes them more aware of their local retail establishments, effectively pulling their heads out of the eCommerce world for a moment.

The challenges of BOPIS for retailers

BOPIS can also be challenging to retailers, just as it can be for consumers.

How so?

Well, right off the bat, people will make far fewer impulse buys when shopping online. Part of the in-person shopping experience is seeing something that you didn’t know you needed and suddenly buying it. Retailers count on this, and they’ll see a lot less of it when you’re not walking through the aisles.

Additionally, as we said a few times already, they’re going to need a brick-and-mortar location if they want to offer BOPIS. In today’s business environment, many retailers survive by being online only. They’re not large enough to compete with Amazon, but they also have no in-person location to offer BOPIS in.

Integrating BOPIS isn’t cheap. It requires a hefty labor and tech investment, so retailers have to have a firm handle on when they can make that money back and see a return.

Wait times in stores might be less at the checkout counter, but the customer service counter will become more crowded if people place more BOPIS orders and choose to pick them up in-store. This can create a traffic jam in an area where many people are already not in a great mood.

It’s also very difficult to update BOPIS orders once they’ve been made. This makes the buying process less flexible and could lead to issues when a customer suddenly changes their mind or realizes they’ve ordered the wrong item.

Which major retailers offer BOPIS?

There are many retailers out there right now making a killing with BOPIS offerings. Here’s a list of some of those retail locations, along with explanations of how they’re better serving their customers through BOPIS.

A list of retailers that offer BOPIS

Target

Target has been offering BOPIS since 2018, making it one of the first major retailers to adopt this service. It also started a drive-up service simultaneously, which spread across the entire United States within a year.

Target offers drive-up BOPIS for in-store items as well as groceries, which made it very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the holiday season in 2020, Target grew its pick up, drive up, and Shipt services by 193%. The drive-up service alone grew by 500%.

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Petco

Petco has also been offering BOPIS services since 2018. It allows for eligible items to be ordered either via the company’s website or app and picked up at the curbside. Most Petco locations are now offering this service.

Petco team members actually bring your orders right to your car. Before leaving the house, just wait for an email that arrives from Petco letting you know that your order is ready. Once you arrive, you call the phone number listed in your email, and someone will bring your order out for you.

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Walmart

Walmart offers BOPIS services at a massive 3,700 stores nationwide.

Originally, Walmart had a standalone grocery app, which separated grocery shopping from the rest of its offerings. Now, everything is integrated into the Walmart app, so you can order groceries, shoes, power tools, and more and pick them up at the store.

Walmart offers vehicle delivery services, and the helpful team members will load your bags into your car for you.

The Walmart app learns a lot about your shopping habits and assembles lists of your favorite items. What’s more, the app also tracks items that you purchase in the store. The next time you log into the app, you’ll see that candy bar you purchased the last time you were physically in a Walmart store in your re-order options.

This creates the true omnichannel experience that people have been clamoring for.

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Walgreens

Walgreens increased its BOPIS efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to help better serve a socially-distanced population.

Orders can be placed through the Walgreens website or the company’s mobile app. You then have the option to pick those items up in-store, at the curbside, or via the drive-thru.

What’s more, Walgreens really takes instant gratification to a new level, offering items in as little as 30 minutes. Walgreens is officially one of the fastest, if not the fastest, same-day pickup options in the United States.

What’s even more impressive is that this is one of the newer BOPIS services, having launched in November of 2020.

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McDonald’s

The fast-food giant Mcdonald's has become a BOPIS machine since launching its McDonald’s mobile app. You can now peruse the McDonald’s menu, make your food selections, and pick up your order at your leisure.

This might fall more into the realm of reserve online, pick up in-store, as you can’t actually complete your payment until you’re physically at the restaurant. McDonald’s ensures this with GPS tracking.

Once you arrive and complete your payment, you can either pick up your order inside at the counter, get it from the drive-thru, or park in an assigned parking space and have it delivered to your vehicle.

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Bed Bath & Beyond

Since launching BOPIS services, Bed Bath & Beyond has fulfilled more than 1.2 million orders. That’s a staggering 16% of the entire company’s digital revenue.

An impressive 60% of Bed Bath & Beyond BOPIS orders are completed within 30 minutes, which is highly impressive. As a result, the company has gained a Net Promoter Score of 80% for its BOPIS services. When it first launched in May 2020, it only had a 49% approval rating.

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Conclusion

BOPIS is the future of online retail, and it’s giving many retailers a fighting chance against giant eCommerce corporations like Amazon.

While BOPIS is highly convenient, it can also be even more affordable. By using coupon codes, you can ensure that you’re getting the best possible prices when you’re buying online and picking up in the store.

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about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.