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Which Retailers Offer the Best "Buy Online, Pickup In Store" Experience?

In the omnichannel shopping era, that option has been growing in popularity and importance.

Daniel B. Kline
Daniel B. Kline
Updated: Apr 14, 2019 at 3:55PM
Published: Feb 26, 2019 at 6:01AM
Author Bio
Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for Microsoft on its Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book, "Worst Ideas Ever," (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

Nearly all the top brick-and-mortar retailers have moved to an omnichannel model that allows customers to mix digital and in-store shopping options, if they choose. Shoppers can look at an item in a store, but order it online from the same company for at-home delivery. They can also avoid having to wait for delivery by buying online and then picking up their orders in-store.

While overall sales rose by 5.2% during the holiday season, and online sales were up 18%, sales using the buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) option rose by 46%, according to data provided by OrderDynamics, Bell and Howell and IHL Group. The three organizations recently conducted a study using 300 secret shoppers to determine how 10 top retailers delivered on the three phases of the BOPIS experience -- online purchase, notification, and in-store pickup.

"With this research, we found that almost all of these retailers have done a terrific job improving the online purchase experience," said IHL President Greg Buzek in a press release. "However, there is great work to be done in the store level execution once the order is placed. This includes the time to pick the order, the time to notify the customer, and then the execution of the pickup at the physical store."

A Walmart in-store pickup kiosk.

Technology may eventually help stores deliver a better BOPIS experience. Image source: Walmart.

Which chain offers the best BOPIS experience?

The secret shoppers rated the retailers on a five-point scale for their  online purchasing experience, in-store pickup experience, total pickup time from entry to exit, and likeliness to recommend/use the service in the future. An overall score was calculated using weighted scores from each component.

"The good news is shoppers really like the BOPIS service when it is offered (4.40 out of 5-point scale where 5 is Extremely Satisfied and 1 is Extremely Dissatisfied)," according to the report. "The bad news is there are wide disparities in the ratings across retailers due to issues of execution of the process."

On the positive side, all 10 retailers rated above the middle-of-the-road "Satisfied" level overall. Those at the top of the scale did well across all categories, while the bottom-ranked companies generally suffered from inconsistencies in notification times and poor store-level execution during the pickup process. The ratings each for each, from best to worst, were:

  • Best Buy: 4.70
  • Home Depot: 4.67
  • Bed Bath & Beyond: 4.62
  • Kohl's: 4.53
  • Target: 4.53
  • Lowe's: 4.48
  • Nordstrom: 4.37
  • Staples: 4.20
  • Macy's: 4.13
  • Walmart: 3.77

The big surprise here may be how poorly Walmart scored, if only because it has been so heavily promoting its new in-store kiosks, which are meant to facilitate the BOPIS process. Walmart's rating took a hit because of its slow notification times and its relatively poor score on the in-store pickup experience.

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What's next?

The study showed that generally, the weakest points of the BOPIS experience involved the human element. The solution to that may be simply for retailers to further automate their processes. On average, their pickup times were cut from from 5.9 minutes to 4.2 minutes when automation was used. For Walmart customers, the divide was much larger: If employees handled orders, it took an average of 10.6 minutes, compared to 4.2 minutes for the more-automated approach.

These numbers suggest that while Walmart came in last this year, its results should take a leap upward the next time this survey gets conducted due to its ongoing rollout of automated solutions. Consumers choose BOPIS for convenience -- so they don't have to wait for delivery. If chains can continue to improve their processes, they should be able to raise these generally high scores. That's something Walmart seems committed to, given that it spent much of last year trying different solutions. As it tracks its own results, the chain should be able to double down on the methods that worked best for it.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.