The New Normal Retail and the Need for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup in Store)

5 Min Read
David Yates

Our UX Lead and Omnichannel Strategist, David Yates, explores the new omnichannel landscape, the need for BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), BORIS (buy online, return in store) and recommendations that will prove effective for retailers now and in the coming months.

Physical retail has taken quite the hit in the age of digital transformation. Prior to the pandemic, stores were challenged to provide a better experience–more engaging and service-oriented than what shoppers can get online.  In recognition of the relationship-building opportunity afforded by retail, many brands have transitioned to counting retail as a cost of customer acquisition rather than a cost of product distribution.  As a result, retail shopping has transitioned into being an opportunity to deliver an emotional experience that fully immerses a shopper in the world of the brand and provides high-touch personal service, guidance, and demonstration.

The differentiating value and attraction of shopping in a physical store vs. shopping online was nicely captured by Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier, when she said that, ‘Amazon solved buying but killed shopping.’

That is, until Covid-19 happened. Now retail is under a different kind of pressure–the pressure to quickly pivot to a newer ‘new normal’. In this even newer new normal, there are several must-have capabilities and functionalities that are now an even higher priority than they were just three months ago. 

So Now What?

Traditional in store shopping will change as we know it for some time to come. Store visits are now oriented toward accomplishing immediate goals in as streamlined a manner as possible. Given the need for safety and the fear and anxiety that now exists around physical contact and proximity, many brands will need to enable new ways for customers and store associates to interact and to transact.  Obviously, of paramount importance is minimizing the need for a shopper to be less than six feet away from other shoppers and store personnel.  That need requires moving as much of the shopping experience as possible, including payment, over to the digital world.  To that end, the most important basic service to implement is BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store).  If it hasn’t already been enabled, make it a top priority.  In case you need any more convincing, BOPIS had already achieved must-have status prior to the pandemic–nearly 70% of shoppers in the U.S. were already using it. And given where we are now, the percentage of use is certain to quickly climb higher as stores reopen.

According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index report, buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) transactions jumped 208% year-over-year in April.

Retail Dive

What to Implement

Store-level Inventory Visibility for Online Shoppers
BOPIS depends fundamentally on store-level inventory visibility in the ecommerce channel. If shoppers can’t see and purchase from a specific store’s inventory, then they are forced to take additional cumbersome actions in order to make the purchase, e.g. calling the store, asking a store associate to check inventory, and making a credit card purchase over the phone. These hurdles will cause many shoppers (maybe even most, depending on the item and the retailer) to look elsewhere.  

BOPIS With Optional (or Even Mandatory) Curbside Service
Since social distancing, especially in denser areas, will be around for some time to come, high-attention but low-touch service will be key to keeping both shoppers and store associates safe and comfortable. BOPIS and its cousin BORIS (buy online, return in store) fit nicely into that new set of requirements, while still affording an opportunity to make shoppers feel truly taken care of. For BOPIS, BORIS and curbside service to work well in this new environment, it’s critical that there is a clear understanding for both shoppers and store associates around what to do, where to go, and how to do it. The greatest challenges here will be around store operations, protocol, messaging, signage and the design/layout of dedicated areas for BOPIS and BORIS.



Recommendations and Considerations for Store Operations and Design

  • For BOPIS and BORIS, assign a dedicated area near the front of the store for pickups and returns.
  • Provide clear instructions and messaging ahead of a customer’s visit to the store. At the store, make sure there’s clear signage and that staff are fully trained in all of the operational details–who’s in charge of getting notifications that an order has been placed, picking it from inventory, preparing it for pickup, placing it in the pickup area, being present for shoppers who arrive for pickup, determining what’s acceptable as proof of purchase or identity validation, etc.
  • Given the technical challenges of fully supporting all that goes along with curbside service within the digital shopping experience, this will likely require a dedicated chat channel or phone contact between shoppers and store associates. Typically, the shopper and store personnel will arrange a time at which the purchased items will be brought out to a predetermined location outside the store for pickup (and maybe even loading into the shopper’s car).
  • When needed, make payments and credits as frictionless as possible by enabling payment through NFC (near field communication) or tap-and-go payment options or, even better, by offloading the transaction to the ecommerce channel using saved payment info from an online account holder’s profile.


Corra has implemented the following omnichannel capabilities for clients such as Eileen Fisher, Everything Wine, Farm and Home, and others:

  • Buy Online, Pickup in Store
  • Buy Online, Return in Store
  • Buy Online, Ship to Store
  • Reserve In Store and Buy Online
  • Find In Store (inventory look-up)
  • Use gift vouchers online issued by physical stores
  • Preselect local store(s) based on customer’s location when they choose ship to store
  • Enable customer to set default store location
  • Enable store associates to update an order status via admin

With an increase in demand for BOPIS, Corra’s offering a 40% off credit to implement this functionality. Reach out to us to learn more. 

The new normal is an opportunity to truly differentiate yourself from the competition by getting the experience right sooner than the next brand.

Final Thoughts

Retailers will need to be bold and flexible. As changes are rolled out, it’s a chance to learn about customers and to quickly understand what works, what doesn’t, and where to go next. If possible, implement A/B testing in physical commerce in much the same manner as online.  Get qualitative feedback early and often from the front lines–store managers and associates–and be prepared to change and adjust according to what’s learned. Embrace the opportunity to leverage the potential of digitally-driven, low-touch, high-attention experiences in the retail environment. Getting this experience right for customers is absolutely invaluable. And since all retailers are more or less in the same boat with regard to the new normal, it’s an opportunity to truly differentiate yourself from the competition by getting the experience right sooner than the next brand.


If you would like to learn more about any of the services and capabilities we mention above, reach out to Corra. We have dedicated UX and Omnichannel specialists on hand to answer any of your questions. Ask us about our 40% off credit toward BOPIS or complimentary CX Audit when you sign up for our Strategic Optimization services under TotalCare

David Yates

David Yates is a UX Lead & Omnichannel Strategist at Corra. With a multi-disciplinary background, David focuses on concepting and designing services, products and applications across installations, interactive signage, mobile, social and web. His passion is to extend and translate human experience, emotion, community and commerce into the digital world.

Corra, a Publicis Sapient company, is the global commerce leader and SI helping brands and organizations grow by evaluating, building, and optimizing their digital commerce ecosystems. Our vast experience with composable and headless implementations speeds time-to-value and provides technical freedom to our clients. Our TotalCare managed services program provides gold-standard support, enhancements and ongoing commerce strategy. We are strategic thinkers, accomplished engineers, and award-winning experience designers. We believe outstanding customer experiences can’t exist without flawless technology, and that flawless technology is pointless without beautiful, human-centered design. Our clients are an integral part of our team. Together, we remove the obstacles that are limiting growth and discover new opportunities. We don’t rest until our clients achieve their full potential. Our clients’ KPIs are our KPIs. We have 20 years of experience in commerce technology, but we also know that customer expectations are constantly evolving. For this reason, we’ve built future-proof solutions and refined an agile execution process that helps our clients achieve more with less. As a Publicis Sapient company, Corra joins a global network spanning 20,000 people with 53 offices around the world enabling us to accelerate our clients’ businesses through designing and building the experiences and services their customers demand.

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