Today’s consumers place a high value on convenience. In fact, some stats show up to “97% of consumers have abandoned a purchase because the service wasn’t convenient enough.” Retailers and businesses today know the importance of offering more convenient omnichannel fulfillment methods, such as BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) and curbside. Accelerated by the pandemic in 2020, more businesses today are looking for ways to improve, or fully implement, online order fulfillment in their locations.
Top companies and retailers have already implemented these new fulfillment methods and are looking for ways to improve efficiency. Some smaller businesses with fewer resources are still finding ways to introduce online ordering into their workflows. Regardless of the pickup method or how far along your business is, there are inventory challenges linked to implementing new fulfillment methods. Here are three main pitfalls to avoid and some solutions you can use to help overcome these challenges.
Ensuring inventory is consistent across every channel is one of the most challenging aspects of BOPIS. For smaller companies, this is relatively simple; what is shown online represents the actual inventory in the store. For larger businesses with many locations and distribution centers involved, it’s not so straightforward.
If an item is available online, shoppers expect it to be available in their local store. When placing BOPIS orders, consumers anticipate it to be ready within a few hours of placing their order. You can alienate customers by not having the right inventory on hand for purchase. Again, consumers want convenience. When inventory isn’t immediately available, you risk losing sales to competitors. You need real-time inventory management systems to help ensure accurate reporting and that enough inventory is on-hand to meet demand.
One study reported 35% of consumers prefer BOPIS because they don’t have to wait (or pay) for their orders to ship. This does create higher expectations for quick turnaround times and adds pressure to staff who may not have been trained in order fulfillment. Or, more commonly, many businesses implemented BOPIS systems with little time to plan, so their internal operations for BOPIS may be inefficient. Many business locations weren’t designed to pick and hold online orders. Poor signage and lack of communication frustrate consumers who want and expect an easy, seamless experience.
While advanced technology and robotics are making it possible to automate order picking, this technology can’t be widely used right away. Each business location still needs to anticipate actual omnichannel demand to ensure the right inventory for each store is available at all times. This can make order picking easier and less time-consuming for personnel since they won’t waste time looking for phantom inventory.
Endless Shopping Aisles
Consumers don’t see a difference between a mobile, desktop, or in-store sale. To them, a sale is a sale. However, businesses know that fulfilling orders across multiple selling channels is challenging.
No matter how good an inventory and supply chain strategy is, out-of-stocks will inevitably occur. Because of that, businesses with eCommerce and mCommerce (mobile commerce) operations can utilize an endless aisle inventory strategy. This enables them to fulfill online orders that are not technically in stock by shipping items from other locations or even from third-party vendors.
Endless aisles are fantastic for consumers and offer a real opportunity to help improve loyalty and increase sales. However, it does create even more logistical challenges, since each location in your supply chain needs to continually communicate and coordinate to accommodate these orders.
Navigate BOPIS Inventory Challenges with Ease
Whether you want to increase eCommerce sales, generate more in-store traffic from BOPIS orders or increase average basket sizes, the starting point is the same. Increasing orders won’t necessarily help your brand if the orders can’t be fulfilled in time. Without an advanced demand planning system, assortment optimization solution, and other supply chain tools, you cannot anticipate true demand across every selling channel. You must have a solid demand planning foundation, like the solutions offered by 4R, or else the rest of your supply chain can fall apart.