Parker Avery recently published a client case study focused on the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ (BOPIS) process. The ability for consumers to order an item from their mobile devices or computers and pick it up the same day is increasingly becoming an expectation–but to do it well, retailers must understand that BOPIS is all-encompassing, with tentacles touching all major systems and processes.

The client case study outlines how we helped a specialty retailer with the requirements, design, testing, and implementation of the BOPIS system and supporting business processes, and the implementation was deemed successful, with enthusiastic customer acceptance. This project also incorporated picking a subset of SKUs to be made available for BOPIS, do a pilot for a handful of stores, and then a phased rollout to groups of stores. We invite you to read this case study by clicking here.

This project was of interest to me because the client primarily sells home décor and seasonal items. In my precious spare time, I run a small home décor business (very, very small.)—primarily to release my creative energy and give my weary eyes a break from the screen. My business focuses on custom wood signs and ‘upscaled’ furniture, and many times I look to larger home décor and furniture retailers for inspiration and the latest trends. I don’t have a physical retail storefront per se, but I sell my designs in a little rented space at a shop called The Lazy Daisy. It’s a ‘mom and pop’ type of operation, but the brand’s popularity and down-to-earth way of doing business have enabled the owners to expand from one small location to five within just seven years…going from around 2,000 to in excess of 37,000 square feet in that short timeframe. Pretty impressive to say the least.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering what does this have to do with BOPIS? Let me explain…

As a retail consultant and just insatiably curious, I am always looking to see what works, what doesn’t work, and most importantly, why (and then I like to try to fix whatever’s broken.). While I was finalizing this case study, I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to do a live ‘test drive’ of Parker Avery’s work, as well as get some design inspiration. So, I browsed the retailer’s website, found an item I really liked that was available for BOPIS at my closest location, ordered it (happily with a 20% off coupon code.), received an order confirmation, and excitedly waited for my pickup confirmation email. I’m usually awake around 5am when I get these ideas, so knowing the store doesn’t open until 10am, I was prepared to wait a few hours.

Just before 10am, I received an unfortunate email, “UH OH. YOUR ITEMS WERE UNAVAILABLE”

What?. But the website told me it was available at my ‘home’ store’s location. Seriously, the one item I wanted in the retailer’s entire 600+SKU BOPIS assortment wasn’t available? And thus, I was a victim of one of the biggest challenges of BOPIS—inventory accuracy. Of course, I wasn’t really upset, but certainly even more curious. So later that day, I drove over to the store to investigate. I checked out the store’s assortment for a bit before asking the very sweet sales associate about my BOPIS order. She immediately knew what I was talking about (apparently not many other people are ordering home décor items at 5am on Halloween), and apologized profusely. She said they searched the entire store for my item, and even found a similar item, but despite the fact that their system indicated they had that SKU in stock at that location, this particular item was nowhere to be found. She offered the similar item, but the colors were not what I wanted.

On the positive side, I did end up buying some much-needed lamps and other small items, so it was a win-win situation for both the retailer and me: I got some things I had been wanting to buy, and the retailer received incremental store traffic as a result of my BOPIS transaction—although arguably, this particular situation may be a bit of an anomaly. (We’re about to publish a point of view that talks about the many ways BOPIS benefits both the customer and the retailer, so stay tuned.). As a nice added touch, the sales associate offered to help take my bulky purchase out to my car.

Lessons learned from this little experiment? Yes, inventory accuracy is absolutely a critical retail capability—and for many retailers remains a challenge regardless of your fulfillment options. Since BOPIS will inherently highlight inventory accuracy issues, retailers offering this service must focus on improving their DC processes and warehouse management system(s). Typically, a physical inventory must also be conducted at stores before moving them to BOPIS.

However, also important is the in-store customer service element. The fantastic experience I received absolutely was a key element in saving what could have been a complete lost sale: the sales associate was extremely nice and very apologetic, she explained the situation, and then offered me an alternative product. All-in-all, this is the same ‘customer first’ mindset many small business owners take to ensure their viability—and when done well, it boosts customer loyalty and can easily remediate many potentially negative situations.

At The Lazy Daisy, there are over 200 craftsmen and DIY-enthusiasts who essentially represent this small chain’s brand and highly variable assortment.  Yes, as a vendor we want to sell our own wares, but at the same time, there is an aura of family and cheerfulness as well as a clear focus on making sure our customers enjoy every second they are shopping in any of the Daisy locations, as well as helping customers find exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s helping someone in one of the five locations, or through an online conversation.  This single ingredient of maintaining a customer-focused attitude is critical to ensuring larger retail initiatives like BOPIS are successful–especially since they usually represent a major change to the store environment.

If you’re ever in the Richmond, Virginia area, I invite you check out any of the five Lazy Daisy stores—you won’t be disappointed.

Shop on.