Why Aren’t More Stores Winning at Saving the Sale?

As consumers become increasingly more demanding in their desire for an efficient and unified shopping experience, the role of the retail store is shifting. Brick and mortar fulfillment solutions, such as ship-from-store and in-store pick-up, are gaining in popularity and retailers are working diligently to incorporate these offerings into their omnichannel strategies.
And it makes sense – In-store pickup is a win-win fulfillment option for all involved. In-store pickup helps shoppers get their products quickly and at their convenience, while eliminating shipping expenses and driving in-store sales for retailers.
But just because in-store pickup is a smart strategy doesn’t mean it is easy to implement. If you look at the retail landscape today, who is doing in-store pickup, and more importantly, who is doing it well?
We recently conducted a buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) mystery shopping study with Multichannel Merchant and the e-tailing group that sheds light on the consumer experience. Of the 30 leading U.S. retailers on our mystery shopping tour, we discovered many interesting insights on BOPIS, but perhaps the most eye opening was the fact that 90% of store associates had access to store inventory, and that 87% of them could place orders through a register (81%), mobile POS (19%) or tablet (7%).
This is great news, right? Think of all of the opportunities for sales associates to be “retail winners” by helping customers find exactly what they are looking for while in the store! Even better, think of the ways a sales associate can bring home the gold by finding complementing products, giving the customer a memorable shopping experience and a reason to come back, right?
Reality check. When our mystery shopper requested items in a different color or size that was not in stock in the store, only 7% attempted to save the sale!
In our study, nearly every retail store gave its associates access to inventory and the ability to place an order for the customer, but only two of the 30 retailers attempted to save the sale.
Where is the disconnect? Traditionally, the divide falls into two categories:
No. 1: Cumbersome technology: How easy is your store technology to use? Are you asking employees to place orders and look up inventory
through your warehouse management system, inventory management system or legacy point of sale software? To encourage store associate engagement, it is important to empower them with intuitive tools that easily shows inventory availability and customer history in one simple screen.
To today’s digitally savvy store associates, cumbersome and clunky interfaces, with ugly screens and disjointed tools are obstructions to accomplishing even the easiest of tasks. Why not give them the tools found in a modern point of sale solution to make it easy to place an order?
Help them save the sale and encourage repeat shopping visits with one simple screen, large images, customer history, related product suggestions and access to the same promotions and discounts offered on the website. Giving them access to faster, better and slicker POS tools will also make them proud to be working for you, and ultimately better brand ambassadors for your organization. 
And don’t underestimate the power mobile technology can bring to the table. By giving store associates the intuitive tools right at their fingertips, you can make it easy for them to help an customer from anywhere in the store, on a device they are familiar with.
No. 2: Organizational misalignment: Unfortunately, while omnichannel fulfillment may be a top priority for the executive team at headquarters, it doesn’t always trickle down to the individual store associate. Empowering store associates to embrace your omnichannel initiatives, such as in-store pickup, requires not only the right technology, but a devotion of resources and training to obtain your desired shopping experience.
When looking to implement in-store pickup, or tweak an existing strategy, ask yourself: What programs do I have in place to train employees? Is the retail associate platform easy to train on? Do I offer incentives or rewards to employees who save the sale? How often do I work with my associates to make sure they understand our omnichannel objectives every time a customer walks in the store?
No one will pretend that empowering store associates to embrace your omnichannel strategies is easy, it takes time and dedication from top to bottom. But, it can be done and they can be taught to be your organization’s biggest advocates, giving customers something to be excited about when shopping in your stores.
Retail innovation is moving at light speed and you don’t want to be caught off guard by relying on outdated and clunky technology. Some say that winning isn’t everything, but in retail, that is far from the truth. Make no mistake, customers will continue to crave BOPIS as it becomes more widely available in their favorite retail stores. Bring home that retail win now by making it easier for your store associates to save the sale.

Jennifer Sherman is VP of Product and Strategy, Kibo