The Evolution of Grocery Retail: Introduction to BOPIS, Curbside, and Delivery

While the competition between retail brands has always been fierce, the global pandemic has upped the ante. The stakes are now higher as retailers who want to be around after the pandemic either have to adapt or file for bankruptcy as some have already done.

With the third wave currently ravaging the country, online grocery shopping has become a key part of our daily lives. While this is good news for retailers, it comes with its unique challenges –faster shipping being the most prominent. It has become imperative for retailers to get customers their items very quickly.

Even before the pandemic hit, consumers were already getting impatient with any shipping arrangement that exceeded two days. In fact, as much as 90 percent of online buyers tend to abandon their carts if it takes more than 48 hours to ship their items. However, most were still willing to “tough it out” because they weren’t mostly at home. After all, when you’re out and about, chances are you might not remember that you ordered a new pair of shoes.

But now that the lockdown is in full effect –even if it’s partial or staggered/introduced on an as-needed basis– and people are spending more time indoors, customers are demanding shorter wait times between clicking the buy button and picking up or receiving their items.

Thankfully, a new technology called BOPIS has made it easier for some retail brands to keep up with consumers’ ever-increasing fast shipping demands. Leading grocery retail brands like Amazon’s Whole Foods are using this tech to gain a competitive edge over other retail brands, and make their already fast shipping policy, even faster.  

What is BOPIS, Curbside/Outside Yard Pickup, and Trunk/In-car Delivery?

BOPIS is short for Buy Online, Pickup In-Store. So once a consumer makes their purchase online, they can go pick up their order in a designated pick-up store or point nearest to them.

When they get to the store, they can either request that their items be dropped outside on the curb or in a designated “outgoing/pickup” area at the pickup point, or have the items placed in their boot.

The former is known as curbside/outside yard pickup and the latter, trunk or in-car delivery. Some retailers provide these options when you’re placing your grocery order.

BOPIS has become a must-have add-on for most forward-thinking retailers. The emergence of the technology has further widened the gap between retailers who were already struggling and those who have integrated this technology into their supply chain. With BOPIS technology being integrated into everything from inventory management to order fulfillment, more shoppers and retail brands are enjoying a more seamless shopping experience.

How BOPIS Impacts Retail and Drives Possible Revenue Growth

As more people shop online for their groceries, grocery retailers are quickly adapting and creating avenues to ease the pickup of customer orders.

Some are increasing lead time, hiring packing staff, opening new warehouse or pickup outlets, and exploring revenue options in ways that they didn’t think possible.

And it’s paying off for both the grocery retail brands and the consumers. What we have these days is a classic win-win situation for everyone involved in the process.

BOPIS Improves Shopping Confidence

Studies are showing that buyers are ordering more groceries because they do not have to be worried about staying indoors in a retail outlet for too long. In fact, BOPIS is the reason why some people started shopping online.

They can simply peruse the offerings provided by the retailer online, place their orders, wait to be notified that their order is ready for pickup, and then go get their order from the pickup location. It’s that simple.   

This increased buyer frequency and order volume has provided an incredibly rewarding situation for many retail brands. Some brands are seeing their revenues go through the roof because of BOPIS as more buyers choose their stores over other retail brands. In fact, it is estimated that over 70percent of buyers have bought items from the same retailer simply because they had the BOPIS option.

Forward-thinking retail brands like Target are taking advantage of this and adding more products to their BOPIS offerings.

Shoppers Minimize Exposure to Covid19

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline has shown that being within 6-feet covid19 carrier for 15 minutes, increases your risk of infection, even if you’re wearing a proper mask.

A new study shows that if one infected person is unmasked in an enclosed space like a store–a very likely scenario, the odds of getting infected goes way up, even if the buyer is wearing a mask. As we’ve seen in many retail stores, some people just don’t wear a mask properly –if they do at all.

In fact, you don’t even have to stay within an enclosed space for that long before getting infected. This is because all it takes is one inhalation to catch the bug. Sadly, the aerosolized nature of the virus means that it can linger in the air for hours after the host has left the scene.

BOPIS eliminates or drastically lowers this risk as buyers do not have to be in an enclosed space that they don’t control for longer than 10 minutes. In fact, with in-car/trunk delivery options, there’s little or no risk of infection.

This increases a buyer’s trust in the retail brand and translates into a repeat shopping experience for him or her.

Offers Convenience as Pickups aren’t Limited to Stores

Some retailers have designated pickup points in certain areas or locations close to the consumer. This completely eliminates the need to drive long distances to pick up purchased items.

BOPIS also provides the added convenience of easy returns. If you get home and find that your items were not what you ordered or you weren’t satisfied with the items, some retailers have made it easy to return the product.

In the past, return requests took anywhere from one week to months. Now, you can simply request to return the product and have it replaced, exchanged or request a refund. Return policies are different for each retailer, but the one thing everyone agrees on is that it’s a lot easier.

Most retailers offer a time-based return window. So as long as the return request is filed within that timeframe, the retailer can either send someone to pick up the item from your home or make it easy for you to return it to the pickup point.

Should Retail Stores Integrate BOPIS, Curbside Pick Up, and In-Trunk Delivery Into Their Business?

Short answer: Yes, if they want to be around in the near future.

Because of the pandemic, fewer people are participating in in-store/in-person shopping. And the experts say that once this habit has been ingrained in the average shopper, buying online and picking up in-store might become the new normal.

Smart grocery retail brands would do well to adopt this new tech as a survival strategy and work on streamlining the process such that it becomes even easier for buyers to purchase from them, and choose their brand over others.

Of course, this won’t be easy seeing as introducing new technology to an already existent framework system might be disruptive. Most retail brands may have to deal with integration issues, supply chain, and logistics kinks, retail software system overhaul, cost of hiring new hands -particularly for physical delivery in-car/trunk–and a ton of other problems.

However, these challenges are nothing compared to filing for bankruptcy and closing hundreds of outlets like we’ve seen in the last few months. Retailers need to start thinking of BOPIS as a long-term strategy for staying in business and keeping the doors open –so even if there’s a slightly increased expense in the short-term, the investment is worth it. 

Is BOPIS, Curbside Pickups, and Delivery the New Normal for Shoppers?

Covid19 is probably going to shape our buying habits, even after everyone gets the vaccine. Why? Because new tech like BOPIS has made online grocery shopping very convenient.

However, if the rapidly mutating nature of the SARS Cov-2 virus and our global lack of preparedness has proven one thing, it’s that there will always be the threat of future pandemics. In fact, there’s the looming threat of “superbugs” that can’t be cured by even the strongest antibiotics in existence.

People might just decide that the risk and “stress” of shopping in-store isn’t worth it. This could shape shopping behavior in the future. In fact, as we speak, new shopping habits are being formed, causing behavioral changes in shoppers.

That, plus the convenience and speed of buying and receiving their items means that shoppers may be less open to “going back to the dark ages” when they had to walk 10 minutes from the back of a 45,000 sqft store to the middle/front section.

BOPIS eliminates all these problems. This is why all forward-thinking grocery retail brands have to adopt this technology. The long term upsides far outweigh the short term challenges.

Final Thoughts

In the past, retailers could afford to pick and choose their marketing and operational channels. Not anymore. Grocery retail brands that will weather this storm and emerge stronger will have to adopt an agile omnichannel operational strategy that includes BOPIS. In fact, we dare say that BOPIS will be integral to their survival. So, building their framework around this new technology is a smart move.

How they choose to integrate the tech is left to them. But AI-powered machine learning technologies like [redacted] can make the process incredibly easier. With our hands-free Augmented Reality (AR) technology, [redacted] makes it easy for grocery retail brands to manage inventory, locate groceries, and fulfill orders faster, all while saving costs for the retailer.

We’ve seen retail clients save over 40 percent in their operating costs from just integrating [redacted] with their BOPIS system. And because it’s an AR tool, sales associates do not have to have to touch anything. [redacted] protects them and minimizes exposure to contaminated surfaces.

Online grocery shopping is at an all-time high –22 percent of consumers currently buy their groceries online every week, and the numbers are projected to go even higher. Up to 31 million US adult residents are expected to use grocery shopping apps by 2024. Reports show that online grocery sales are expected to be at almost $60 billion by 2023.

Amazon and Walmart have the largest online grocery retail market share. Currently, grocery shopping satisfaction is at a whopping 77 percent on Walmart –that’s the highest satisfaction rating. And part of that satisfaction comes from Walmart’s integration of BOPIS systems –there are 3,450 pickup locations for online orders and 2,730 stores offering same-day delivery. Grocery retailers looking to get their slice of this market and interested in replicating similar results should get in touch with us at [redacted]. If you’re interested in making your retail operations faster, cost-efficient, and super-seamless using a proprietary AI-powered machine learning technology, click here to request a demo today.