BOPIS, with Levi's and Zara, robots reach the back room (and beyond)

In brief
BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) is on the increase. This entails long queues for customers waiting to pick up purchased goods or return them to shops, used as points for "click and collect" or accepting returns. So here come the robots ...

BOPIS (Buy OnlinePickup In Store) is becoming increasingly popular in the retail sector. According to a National Retail Federation study, almost 65% of online consumers were aware of BOPIS offers at the end of last year, while another 68% of those who had already taken advantage of them said they were satisfied. Some retailers are therefore working on improving this type of offer, including the allocation of shop space and quick and efficient ways of processing orders. 

Today, this use of robots typically seems to be the prerogative of the fashion sector along the entire supply chain. The first significant experience was that of Levi’s: by the year 2020, the American brand of the most famous blue jeans in the world, will have replaced all its workers dedicated to working the fabric for obtaining the “vintage” effect (holing, fading, fraying). Seven to eight minutes for treatment are too many; lasers can complete the finishing of a pair of jeans in 90 seconds. Levi’s has had to contend with increasingly strong competition in recent years, in addition to increasing pressure on marginality, and the introduction of robots speeds up production and makes it more “agile”. The decision is therefore related to the desire to “reduce waste and costs”, shortening the entire design and manufacturing process which is no longer suited to rapid changes in fashion. Chip Berg, CEO of Levi Strauss, has no doubt: “This is the future of jeans manufacturing”.

After Levi’s it is the turn of Zara, even if for reasons different from those Levi’s. In fact, the Spanish brand of the Inditex group will entrust machines with the management of goods returned under right of withdrawal. In this case, BOPIS purchasing now covers one-third of global online sales volume. This entails long queues for customers waiting to pick up purchased goods or return them to shops, used as points for “click and collect” or accepting returns. Zara has recently already opened a pop-up shop in London to help promote sales and returns online: the choice of robots is a further step in the same direction. The customer who orders online will be assigned a code which, when shown at the point of sale, will allow a robot in the warehouse to trace the product and deliver it quickly. Traditional large retailers are also moving decisively towards BOPIS: Walmart and Lowe’s now use robots to scan in-store inventories and other processes.