BOPIS and BOPIL? Buy online pick up in store or locker?

The pandemic ushered in the age of contactless commerce—and it might be here to stay. Learn how businesses are including lockers in their Buy Online, Pick Up in Store options.

BOPIS and BOPIL. Are they just another pair of here-today gone-tomorrow acronyms? Or transformative methods of getting your goods into your customers’ hands that you’ll rely on for years to come?

Dive into the pros and cons of each and learn whether your business can benefit from the Buy Online Pick Up in Store and Buy Online Pick Up in Locker trends.

What does BOPIS mean?

The acronym BOPIS is short for “buy online, pick up in store”—an innovative fulfillment strategy that combines the convenience of online shopping with consumer expectations for fast, free delivery. BOPIS offers an easy way for retailers with both online and “bricks and mortar” stores to build customer loyalty and minimize cart abandonment due to high shipping costs. And that’s not the only advantage that BOPIS creates for retailers. Research indicates that customers who come into the store to pick up their orders are very likely to purchase additional items during their visit, boosting both foot traffic and sales.

Here’s how BOPIS works. The customer shops online and places a item in her cart. At checkout, she is presented with a choice of shipping options, including the ability to “Pick Up in Store” at no additional cost. When the customer selects “Pick Up in Store” and completes the transaction, a store associate either selects the item from inventory or orders it from another nearby location or distribution center. The customer receives a notification when the merchandise is ready for pickup. She can come to the store at any time during regular hours to pick up her order at the customer service desk. Alternatively, if the customer prefers not to enter the store, she may opt for curbside pickup, in which case a store associate will bring the order outside to the customer who is parked in a specified spot.

As BOPIS becomes increasingly popular, the growing number of customers choosing this option can sometimes create logistical challenges. If there is a long line at the customer service desk, or if it takes longer than expected for curbside delivery, shoppers may grow impatient and rate their experience poorly.

What’s more, although it appears to be a simple strategy, retailers implementing BOPIS can expect to incur expenses for

  • An ecommerce web site that supports “pick up in store” and/or “curbside pickup” options
  • A retail POS that integrates with your online shopping cart
  • Real-time inventory management software
  • A designated area for BOPIS order pickup (including space to store the orders)
  • Dedicated staff to fulfill orders and assist customers
  • Signage (both in store and in the parking lot for curbside pickup)

You will no doubt notice that lockers are not required to implement BOPIS. However smart lockers are an essential component of a BOPIL strategy.

What does BOPIL mean?

BOPIL, or “buy online, pick up in locker” is essentially a newer version of BOPIS that is enabled by smart locker technology. The two strategies are very similar up until the point that the customer collects her merchandise. Instead requiring the assistance of a store associate, the BOPIL strategy is a self-service option that trims even more time off an already efficient process.

Where a BOPIS delivery may take 5-10 minutes, including walking into the store and going to the order pickup desk, waiting in line for service, presenting an ID and waiting for an associate to retrieve the package, a BOPIL delivery can be completed in a matter of seconds. The BOPIL customer simply scans the unique barcode provided in the electronic notification to open the locker door. She then removes her order from the locker, at which point the system notifies staff that the locker is once again available for use.

Another key advantage of BOPIL is that the strategy also works well in reverse, simplifying the returns process. Customers who wish to return unwanted merchandise can request a return authorization, which includes a unique barcode to open a locker. When the returned items are placed in the locker and the door is closed, store associates receive a notification. The merchandise can be returned to inventory for resale, and the purchase price can be automatically credited to the customer’s account.

To BOPIS or BOPIL? A question for the digital age

The acronyms are unwieldy, but the concept is simple. A consumer buys online then picks up in a store or locker. There you have it! BOPIS and BOPIL.

BOPIS has been with us for a while. Many multi-channel retailers offer a “pick up in store” option when consumers order from them online. And BOPIS saw a huge bump in demand when contactless consumerism became a make-or-break strategy during the pandemic. Doubtless many of those retailers wished they also had a locker pickup option in place to supplement their BOPIS.  

Is BOPIS or BOPIL right for your business? Will we ever get used to saying BOPIS and BOPIL? Let’s discuss the ins and outs of the first question and leave the second one for history to decide.

BOPIS: Consumer trend or enduring business strategy?

So how much did BOPIS, or the service formerly known as “click and collect”, increase during the recent lockdowns? By a lot. According to Insider Intelligence1, US BOPIS sales grew by 106.9%. The circumstances for that growth might be exceptional, but consumers often embrace a trend for one reason and keep it alive for many others.

Here are just a few of reasons customers love BOPIS and so should retailers.

Why consumers love BOPIS

  • Savings: Allows them to avoid shipping and delivery fees
  • Speed: In most cases they can get their purchases faster  
  • Convenience: They can shop at home and pick up at their leisure
  • Returns: It simplifies the process and eliminates the cost

Why retailers should love BOPIS too

  • Profits: Can’t afford to offer free shipping? Offer BOPIS instead 
  • Profits: Last-mile logistics can be time-consuming and expensive 
  • Profits: It increases foot traffic and upselling opportunities 

But wait a minute…

BOPIS has its detractors and naysayers as well. Whether that BOPIS order is picked up in-store or via curbside service, someone on staff needs to pick it, pack it and alert the recipient that it’s ready for pickup. And if this process isn’t handled efficiently, your happy BOPIS customer might leave TDTR (too disgruntled to return).  

This is where BOPIL enters the conversation.

BOPIL: Old school storage with a digital twist

BOPIL is similar to BOPIS, only less hands-on and a little smarter. Rather than standing in line at a service counter or waiting outside on the curb, a consumer collects their online purchase from a smart locker pickup location at a retailer’s store.

Smart lockers differ from standard lockers in one critical way: they’re technology-enabled for chain-of-custody tracking and automated pickup alerts. Most include digital flourishes like touchscreens and scanners. And some can even be tailored based on your space, order volume and brand aesthetic, with the ability to scale as your needs change.

Consumers and retailers who embrace BOPIS will love BOPIL even more. 

Why consumers love BOPIL

  • Experience: It delivers a frictionless, no-lines, no-wait experience 
  • Contactless: No human interaction of any kind is required
  • Security: Assured and safe storage of mail, parcels and assets
  • Automation: Prompt, automated notification of incoming items

Why retailers love BOPIL

  • Automation: Minimizes the steps and staff needed to fill an order
  • Accuracy: Reduces delivery delays and number of misplaced packages
  • Enhanced service: Offers a secure, convenient, autonomous experience
  • Profits: All the things that make BOBIS profitable apply to BOPIL

How BOPIL works

  1. Staff picks order, logs it and delivers it to a locker 
  2. An automated notification with barcode is sent to a customer alerting them to pick up their order
  3. Customer scans their barcode and retrieves their package from the locker at their convenience

BOPIS and BOPIL: Better together