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No store, no problem: Via.Delivery offers BOPIS option for e-commerce sellers

Buy-online, pick-up-in-store is an increasingly popular option for larger retailers, but not typically available for digital-only brands until now

U.S. consumers who utilize buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) services grew exponentially in 2020. According to research from Business Insider, U.S. shoppers spent $72.46 billion on items purchased using BOPIS in 2020 — a 106.9% increase over 2019.

The same report noted that seven retailers — Walmart, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Target, Lowe’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom — accounted for 64% of BOPIS sales in 2020. In all, nearly 67% of shoppers used BOPIS in the first half of 2021, according to Invesp, and 75% of those said they would likely make an additional purchase. Invesp predicted that 10% of all sales will be fulfilled by BOPIS by 2025.

BOPIS works really well for retailers with physical locations, but pure-play digital retailers are left to shipping direct to the consumer’s home — not a huge negative, but an option that is more costly. Via.Delivery is out to change that, giving online retailers a BOPIS option through a nationwide network of physical locations where consumers can have their items shipped for convenient pickup.

“E-commerce is booming and, with COVID, the shipping and delivery markets have gone through the roof,” said Mitchell Nikitin, CEO and co-founder of Via.Delivery. “At the same time, online shoppers are increasingly sensitive to high shipping costs, which cause 56% of them to abandon their carts. As a result, non-Amazon online retailers lose billions of dollars in sales revenue each year. Via.Delivery has solved this problem to enable the millions of online retailers that don’t have brick-and-mortar locations to compete with Amazon and traditional retailers.” 

Alternative delivery options

Officially launched Tuesday morning in the U.S., Via.Delivery leverages a technology platform and partnerships with physical stores to offer more than 21,000 pickup locations to online brands. The company also offers a custom API and Shopify plug-in to give pure-play online retailers access to these delivery locations.

There are also shipment tracking capabilities, and Via.Delivery handles all parts of the shipping process, from label creating to shipping and pickup of orders.

The platform is designed to provide both the online retailer and physical retailer a way to improve the customer experience. For the online retailer, shipping costs are typically lower by between 20% and 30%, and Via.Delivery is able to leverage those lower commercial rates and pass them on to the consumer.

“Via.Delivery enables pure-play e-commerce merchants to offer low-cost BOPIS shipping options to their customers,” Nikitin said, noting in an interview with Modern Shipper that the lower cost is due to Via.Delivery’s access to commercial rates. “For a fraction of the cost, online shoppers can select one of our nearby alternative delivery locations — such as convenience stores, pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations. They will be alerted when the package is ready for pickup and can collect it while they shop.” 

Watch: How Via.Delivery works

Physical store locations also benefit from increased foot traffic, the company said. There is no cost to join the program, and most packages are less than 1 pound, with an average volume of 35 cubic inches.

“There are more than 1 million Shopify online stores in the U.S., and that number is growing rapidly year-over-year,” Nikitin said. “Every single one of these merchants now has the opportunity to offer buy-online, pick-up-in-store options to their customers. This will dramatically improve the customer experience for these merchants.”

Customers choosing the pick-up-in-store option can access a map of participating locations in the area. Once the item arrives at the desired location, a unique QR code is sent. When customers arrive at the store location, they simply show the QR code to the merchant, who retrieves the item. Items are held up to five days at the location.

The shipping option is seamlessly integrated into the checkout experience, giving the customer the choice of where to have the item shipped, and users see the costs for different shipping methods so they can make the best shipping option. The customer is notified throughout the entire process.

Any goods that fit in a box or polybag not exceeding dimensions of 108 inches on any single side and 165 inches in length and weighing less than 50 pounds are eligible. Most deliveries are made within five to seven business days.

Global footprint

Via.Delivery has more than 150 pure-play e-commerce merchants on its technology platform and more than 66,000 alternative delivery locations around the world. In an interview with Modern Shipper, Nikitin said the company’s founding traces back to a food delivery business he and Olga Nikitina had in Moscow.

“We tried to get as much feedback from our clients as we could,” Nikitin said. “One of the feedback [comments] was that home delivery was not always convenient because of porch pirates and high delivery costs.”

First launched in Moscow in May 2020, Via.Delivery sought to provide an alternative delivery location option. Popular in Europe, Asia and Russia, the option sees items delivered to bars, breakfast locations and traditional convenience stores and retailers. Nikitin said a pilot found that retailers serving as pickup points saw about 50% of the customers buying something in their store.

Alchemist Accelerator reached out and asked Via.Delivery to join its startup accelerator in San Francisco. Now based in Menlo Park, California, and venture capital-backed (it raised a $2.1 million seed round in the spring), Via.Delivery is looking to bring the concept of alternative delivery to the U.S. market.

“What turned out to be a norm or already existing shipping option in Europe, Asia and Russia called alternative shipping option was not very well known in the United States,” Nikitin said.

Its U.S. test pilot also found that between 22% and 25% of online orders were shipped using the alternative shipping option.

“We did not expect [such fast adoption] because we are not as well known,” Nikitin said, noting that the company hoped to process 9% of shipments. In Europe, alternative delivery is as much as 70% of the market, he added, saying “that is the trend we expect in the United States.”

 Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at bstraight@freightwaves.com.