The rise of omnichannel or multichannel shopping experiences has led to an explosion of new purchasing behaviors, each with its own implications for business strategy, and yes, each with its own punchy acronym. (Everything in business needs an acronym.)
For the last two decades, I’ve built my career and my business on the ever-shifting landscape of retail. As CEO of the open source commerce platform Reaction Commerce, I know that it’s not enough to simply keep up with retail jargon — it’s also important to envision how a retailer might take advantage of these growing shopping trends.
Here’s a quick guide to just a few of the most important omnichannel terms you might encounter, along with some insight into what they could mean for your commerce strategy and operations.
Research Online, Purchase Offline (ROPO)
This is when a customer researches a product online, then goes to a physical store to make the purchase. It’s a very common pattern. Retailers take note: Even if the bulk of your revenue comes from offline customers, you need a robust online presence. Investing in a well-designed, modern website will pay off when ROPO shoppers can get enough information about your product to cement a purchase decision before they even set foot in your physical store.
What’s more, the increased foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar stores can pay dividends. Established retailers have decades of expertise in merchandising and sales, which they can use to tempt ROPO customers into buying more than they may have intended when they walked through the door.
Browse In-Store, on Mobile, Buy Online (BIMBO)
BIMBO is more or less the opposite of ROPO. Here, the customer qualifies their purchase in-store and on mobile, then makes the final purchase online. Online-only, direct-to-consumer brands like Casper often run experiential pop-ups to cater to this shopping style.
We know that consumers tend to prefer physically interacting with certain products and categories before buying (e.g., mattresses, apparel, footwear). By offering an in-person experience, you have a great opportunity to satisfy this desire and win over uncertain shoppers before closing the sale online.
Buy Online, Pick-up In Store (BOPIS), or In-Store Pick Up (ISPU)
Customers continue to demand more and more flexibility and convenience in their fulfillment options. Both BOPIS and ISPU refer to shoppers buying online, but opting to pick items up at a physical store. Again, because this type of buying pattern drives customers to a brick-and-mortar location, it gives retailers a chance to tempt these shoppers into spending more by optimizing the in-store experience. In fact, according to some studies, nearly 75 percent of customers purchase additional items while they’re browsing in-store.
Buy Online, Return In Store (BORIS)
With BORIS, customers make an online purchase, have the item shipped to their home as usual, then ultimately decide to return or exchange the item at a brick-and-mortar store. Since it takes the hassle out of return shipping, BORIS is an extremely convenient service for customers and can create stronger brand affinity.
It can also be a major headache for the retailer, especially if their inventory management doesn’t revolve around a single source of truth across all channels. But if you can manage it, catering to your BORIS customers yields benefits. Once in-store, a shopper who intends to return an item might be persuaded to exchange it instead, or even to make additional purchases.
It’s a Buyer’s Market
All of these omnichannel shopping behaviors require retailers to thoughtfully build out operations across online and offline channels. That can be hard, time consuming and expensive, especially if your technology investments haven’t kept up with the changing retail landscape. However, the benefits to your business — e.g., increased sales, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, and a clearer understanding of what your customers want — make it worth the effort.
Besides, if shoppers want and expect to move seamlessly across online and offline channels, what choice do any of us really have but to answer the call? Now more than ever, customers are always right — especially when it comes to how and where they buy.
Sara Hicks is the co-founder and CEO of Reaction Commerce, an open source commerce management platform for modern brands and retailers.
Related story: The New Rules of Omnichannel Retailing