Even before the pandemic-fostered surge in e-commerce, there was rapidly growing consumer interest in BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) and BORIS (buy online, return in store) programs, with nearly 70% of consumers indicating they’ve used BOPIS more than once, according to Business Insider Intelligence. Roughly half have said they made a purchase online based on whether or not in-store pickup was available.
Obviously that number reflects broader retail purchases and doesn’t apply to furniture in the same way or volume. However, just as consumer expectations around delivery have been shaped by Amazon’s ability to deliver everything from books to tiny homes in days not weeks, BOPIS represents an emerging expectation of service levels.
The number of consumers who drive in to pick up a bedroom suite may be few and far between, but the opportunity is not insignificant. Ask Nebraska Furniture Mart, whose Dallas store features one of the most sophisticated pick-up operations in retail, furniture or otherwise.
The opportunity, at least at the outset, is to step back and analyze the key elements of convenience that consumers perceive in BOPIS and then determine a way to translate that to select furniture, bedding and accessory purchases. Boxed beds are the perfect example. Even at its fastest, Amazon cannot get a bed to consumers the same day, but the local furniture store certainly can. What other categories might have similar characteristics? How might that help enhance a store’s image with younger or more reclusive consumers?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but these questions seem worth exploring.
In the case of BORIS, there appears an even clearer differentiating advantage to align with changing consumer expectations. For years, furniture and bedding retailers have seen disruptors chip away at their business by focusing on consumer pain points in the traditional shopping process. In this instance, returns represent a consumer pain point intrinsic to shopping online. No matter how big the online retailer, their reverse logistics ability is uncomfortable at best and non-existent at worst.
Even boxed bed suppliers that have made no-questions-asked returns an integral part of their marketing pitch frequently get dinged by consumers because of the time and effort required to execute the return. In the case of furniture, consumers are often shipped a replacement and told to keep or donate the damaged or unsatisfactory purchase.
It was this challenge that fostered Amazon’s partnership with Kohl’s, giving Amazon shoppers an easier return path and giving Kohl’s extra traffic and a shot at second-chance sales. I’m not suggesting furniture stores take back e-tailers or other retailers’ returns, although there’s an almost certain secondhand, swap-meet-style business model there.
However, eliminating fear of an uncomfortable or wrong-sized purchase made through the store’s website certainly could have value and reduce the chances of that sale going elsewhere. It’s also a second bite at the apple, another chance to sell complementary purchases. And best of all, if it’s done well, there’s a satisfied and likely-to-return shopper, who — instead of recounting their return horror story — would sing your praises across social media.
BOPIS and BORIS might sound like a bad Saturday morning cartoon show, but they could also be a great new opportunity in an increasingly digital marketplace.