The present pandemic situation has changed the retail sector on a global scale. Keeping in line with the need for social distancing, the retail sector has shifted its focus from in-store purchases to minimum contact purchase. The mantra has been to minimize contact and maximize checkout convenience. Whereas on one hand, the in-store business has declined, the buy online, pick at the store (BOPIS) or click and collect orders have increased.

Experts from a recently concluded webinar arranged by TRG/Zebra indicate that the online ordering trend increased by 12-13 percent. This level of growth, as predicted by Deutsche Bank was to take place not earlier than in 2025. In fact, going by the YoY growth in sales of various companies, Walmart experienced a growth of 100%, Albertsons Company by 243%, and Sprouts by 120%. Motivated by the data, Sprouts Inc. expanded its online purchase and pick up capability. It is reported to have increased its pick up facility from 55 stores to 344 stores by May 2020.

The experts focused on two major points at the webinar. First, the increase in click and collect percentage should have gone higher than the reported figures. This happened because due to the sudden stress on the online system, several customer orders could not be fulfilled. Secondly, the shopping world is set to change forever – customers will prefer initiatives like BOPIS.

As per the white paper by TRG/Zebra, 84% of customers do not like to wait for home delivery of articles and 50% of customers have abandoned online purchases due to poor delivery of products. Running brick and mortar stores in the present also has several drawbacks. This includes increased cost of operations due to limitations imposed on the entry of shoppers at a time, cleaning costs, and reduced operational hours.

Observations during the pandemic:

The COVID-19 situation has given a few insights into the retail sector. Let us look at them one by one:

The pandemic has exposed the limitations of the IT departments at many stores. The IT department is entrusted with maintaining accurate inventory, managing hardware and software of the store, and fulfilling online orders. The non-fulfillment of orders has led the store managers to realize the loopholes in their system. This has encouraged them to improve and upgrade their existing system.

The inventory management, supply chain reliability, and integration have also been stretched to the maximum. Many of these systems at several stores were ruptured. This has led to strengthening and improving them for the future. In several cases, large stores have understood the drawback of relying on a third-party supply chain and have pressed for self-reliance.

The stores have also undergone changes. The layout of the stores has been adapted to accommodate for in-store pickup. Shops which did not have an online presence, have gone to the internet to sell their merchandise. The floor area is increasingly getting divided into three distinct parts – for staging orders which do not require freezing, for staging orders which require freezing and space for in-store sales. Other changes include floor markers for social distancing and Flexi-glass between the customer and store payment executive.

Optimizing the click and collect experience.

The click and collect experience involves the entire flow from browsing the online catalog of the store, placing the order until collecting the products from the store. You can find a list of to-do things in order to improve the BOPIS experience of the customer.

Efficient customer communication is vital: As per a white paper by Zebra/TRG, communicating with customers is essential to closing a deal and providing a hassle-free shopping experience. The shop keepers are encouraged to use multiple channels to interact with their clients. This includes phone, SMS, email, and even an occasional letter. By informing the customers about the latest deals, providing guidance on how to collect purchased goods, and staying in touch during special occasions, your store will remain visible to your clients.

Increasing picking efficiency and accuracy: Big distribution centers and warehouses need to improve pickup efficiency. This saves time and improves customer satisfaction. This is also essential for multi-channel ROI. The use of technology like portable computers and wearable sensors improves the pickup accuracy ensuring successful fulfillment.

Staging shipment:

While moving merchandise from the warehouse to the staging location, pickers may need to group several articles to complete an order. Hence it is required to use methods that improve the visibility and the status of the individual products.

Efficient customer recognition:

Since buyers don’t like to wait while collecting their purchase, it is important to deploy quick and efficient methods to recognize the customers and map them with their packets. Interactive kiosks and radio beaconing are two of many techniques in this line.

Worker communication:

For efficient warehouse management and customer handling, it is required that the store workers get to communicate easily and efficiently. Immediate communication eliminates small delays which accumulate into larger losses. Methods and techniques need to be deployed to eliminate the communication gap. Text messaging, walkie-talkies, and other communication devices can mitigate this problem.

Using the right technology:

Owing to the complexity of modern-day warehouse functioning, it is important to choose the correct technology towards fulfilling the click and collect experience. The right kind of software and hardware will go a long way in smoothing the edges and meeting customer expectations.

Space for future innovation:

All the systems deployed for BOPIS should be adaptable to changes in the future. They should be able to accommodate newer technologies and provide continued seamless service to the store and its customer. This reduces the cost of frequent up-gradation and removes losses due to the settling time of the system.

POSibolt is the next generation ERP solution for all your Omni-directional e-commerce needs. It provides an end to end solution for integrating inventory, logistics, point-of-sale, handling social media marketing, product photography, SEO strategy, web site development, and brand identity towards enhancing the click and collect experience. You can integrate your business with third-party sellers like Amazon, Facebook, and monitor your ever-growing sales with POSibolt.

Feel free to reach us at info@posibolt.co.za or +27105951080 for further information.

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