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04/23/2021

Tractor Supply’s Tech Investments Refine the BOPIS Experience

Buy-online-pickup-in-store and curbside are 75% of Tractor Supply’s digital sales, which experienced triple-digit percentage growth for the fourth consecutive quarter. Learn how the retailer invested in new technologies and operational components over the last year to get here.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Credit: Tractor Supply Company

Tractor Supply Company detailed its digital success after the rural lifestyle retailer reported an “exceptionally strong” start to the year.

The retailer’s e-commerce sales experienced triple-digit percentage growth for the fourth consecutive quarter. Its buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) service accounts for approximately 75% of Tractor Supply’s digital sales, while curbside pickup is about 75% of BOPIS.

“Our execution, both from the customer order all the way through to customer pickup, is just much more efficient than it was this time last year,” CEO Hal Lawton said on the company’s earnings call. “And that's really due to all the investments that we've made and just the outstanding execution by the team.”

These investments include Tractor Supply rolling out its first mobile app last year. The app now has over one million downloads and is driving digital sales. Additionally, Tractor supply started dedicating staff outside the store and adding new Theatro headsets last year. 

Within moments after a digital order is placed, that task is acknowledged by an associate. Tractor Supply now has Theatro headsets in stores for every single team member, Lawton said, and over 90% of orders are being picked in less than an hour.

As soon as the order is completed, an associate checks it in with a mobile handheld device and then they take the order to the store’s BOPIS Lockers. At that point the customer gets a notification saying the order is ready. Tractor Supply doubled the capacity of its mobile handhelds in stores last year, Lawton said, and just rolled out the lockers in November 2020. The average store has three BOPIS lockers.

Customers using the app for BOPIS can note the type of vehicle they're driving, including model and color, as well as special pickup requirements they have, such as opening up the back of an SUV and placing the order in the vehicle. On their way to the store for pickup, On My Way functionality in the app gives associates a notification saying the customer is ready for the order to be picked up as soon as the shopper enters the parking lot.

“And then in their Theatro headset, it will actually tell them, Kurt Barton in a white Ford F-150 is ready for their order,” Lawton explained. “And they'll walk right out, and they will drop the order in the back of the SUV, as it was indicated. We're doing well over 90% of that in minutes now. And then they take the handheld device out there, complete the order because we've rolled out additional WiFi access points on the front, and the customer drives off.”

Lawton explained this scenario is now a big percentage of the retailer’s orders and the “vast majority of the technology, as well as the operational components, are all new” in the last year.

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Tractor Supply Company to expand Carhartt merchandise selection in more than 100 retail stores with new store-within-a-store format.

Remodeling the Experience

Looking ahead, Tractor Supply expects to execute 150-200 “side lot” transformations this year. The program involves a transformation of underutilized outdoor space into to a state-of-the-art garden center with expanded buy-online-pickup-in-store capabilities. Over 40 stores are operating and the retailer continues to refine its learnings for future build-outs, of which 35 are under construction. Additionally the retailer plans to complete 150-200 Project Fusion store remodels this year. New stores are being built as Fusion stores with improved layout, signage, SKU expansion and adjacencies.

Tractor Supply Company also plans to expand its Carhartt offering in dozens of retail stores. Carhartt will add several thousand additional square feet of branded, in-store shopping space to provide consumers with a dedicated shopping experience. The new “shop-in-shop” concept, which is currently in 10 stores, will roll out in more than 100 Tractor Supply stores in 2021, with an additional 25 stores added next year.

“This new store-within-a-store format was created with Tractor Supply’s customers at the center of the shopping experience,” said Seth Estep, EVP, CMO. “By partnering with Carhartt to double our selection, our stores have even more of what makes Tractor Supply a destination for everything – workwear and otherwise – that our customers need to take care of their home, land, pets and animals.”

Based on the company’s strong Q1 2021 performance, it raised its financial outlook for the year and now expect to deliver diluted EPS in the range of $7.05 to $7.40.

“We believe our resilient business model with a differentiated and loyal customer base, our strategic investments to capture growth opportunities and the strength of our balance sheet position us to capitalize on the momentum in our business in 2021 and beyond,” Lawton said.