During my summer in SF, I did lots of things for the very first time. Participating in a hackathon was one of them; winning that hackathon was also one of them! After two intense rounds, my team not only won the competition, but also had the chance to present our idea to Macy’s C-Suite executives and have the pitch be broadcasted across all Macy’s Tech offices - truly the opportunity of a lifetime!
In July of 2019, Macys.com tech interns across the United States were invited to participate in a hackathon. We were split up into teams with members coming from various departments, and each team was assigned a topic. My team, which consisted of five developers and a UX designer (myself), were given the task of improving the BOPS (Buy Online Pickup in Store) process at Macy’s.
Like any young, bright-eyed interns, our minds immediately went to ideas involving robots and AI-based solutions, but we quickly came to the realization that we had little insight regarding the current state of the process. To tackle this challenge, we decided to do some investigative work at one of the largest Macy’s stores in San Francisco, located in the heart of the historic Union Square.
We set up a meeting with a Sales Manager at the store, and came up with a list of questions to help uncover some of the BOPS-related challenges they were currently facing. The Sales Manager walked us through the entire process, sharing a behind-the-scenes look into every stage of the BOPS process, from the packaging bay all the way to the storage room where customers’ orders were kept.
To our surprise, the manager claimed that the BOPS process was seamless as was, with no complaints coming from customers or associates. The reason our team found this surprising was because while we were visiting the store, we witnessed first-hand a customer having to wait over 15 minutes at the BOPS desk to retrieve her order because it had been misplaced, and the sales associates were struggling to locate it. We in fact helped track down the order, and finally gave it to the customer, who at that point was visibly frustrated with the experience.
With this experience in mind, we returned back to the office and decided that we needed to do more research, this time from the customer’s perspective. With limited time on hand, we decided to take advantage of our in-house resources and met with a member of the Customer Experience team, who shared data of customer experiences surrounding the BOPS process. This data was retrieved by interviewing 600 customers, and the most common complaints were sorted into ten different categories. At 18%, a long in-store wait was found to be the highest detractor from the BOPS customer experience, validating the experience we had with the customer during the in-store visit.
To further understand whether this was a common problem across the industry or specific only to Macy’s, we looked into a Bell and Howell report about BOPS from 2019 which studied ten different retailers, and discovered that shoppers gave Macy’s BOPS an overall rating of 4.13/5, higher only than that of Walmart’s.
A big contributor to this low score was the time that customers had to spend in store to pick up their order, with the Macy’s pickup process taking an average of 10.77 minutes, which was significantly higher than any of the other retailers that were part of the study.
Clearly, there was a major disconnect between Macy’s colleagues and customers. While the Sales Manager had nothing but positive feedback to provide regarding the BOPS process, both internal and external customer data showed otherwise, indicating the need for a solution that would bridge this gap.
This research is what led to the development of QuickPick (QP) – our team’s solution to speed up and enhance the BOPS pickup process. QP can be broken down into three different stages.
The customer is central to the first stage of QuickPick. I took on the task of designing a new feature for the Macy’s app which customers can use to indicate when they’ll be coming into the store to pick up their BOPS order, such that the in-store associates can have their order ready and waiting for them at the counter upon their arrival, saving the time spent fetching the order while the customer waits at the pickup desk.
Upon selecting a date and time for pickup in the app, customers may be prompted to change their selection if multiple other customers have already selected that time slot. By discouraging customers from coming in during busy times, the system ensures that the associates don’t need to deal with an overwhelming amount of pickups, and also ensures that the customer won’t have to wait a long time in store, behind other customers who are also picking up their order at that time.
Once the customer finishes selecting their pickup time, they can add the event to their calendar to get a reminder of it closer to the scheduled time.
Then, they move onto the second stage of purchasing a bag. Something the sales manager mentioned was that customers would sometimes come into store to pickup their order without remembering to bring a bag, and would forget that purchasing a bag in-store would cost them a fee, creating an awkward situation. To prevent this, customers have the option to purchase bags through QP ahead of time.
After making their bag selection, the customer’s process is complete. If required, they have the options to change or cancel their pickup time, or even get it shipped to their home if they simply cannot make it to the store within the 7-day pickup window.
Next we focused on the store associate’s side, which was designed by Eduardo, one of the developers on our team who wanted to try his hand at design! In the associate’s interface, the list of customers coming in to pick up their orders is shown chronologically, with the customer arriving soonest being displayed first.
To verify that a customer’s order has been completed, the associate can sign in to the system to check its status.
If the order appears to be incomplete, the associate can go in and see the issue. The system will indicate exactly which part of the order is missing, and who the point of contact is within the store who can track down the missing or misplaced item.
Once the item is found, the order can be marked off as complete. Now, with Angela arriving to pick up her order in 15 minutes, it's time to bring her package to the front desk.
At this point, the associate can use the system to track down which storage unit the order is being contained in. They can scan the unit barcode to confirm that the order has been located.
The associate can then retrieve the order from the unit, and relocate it by bringing it to the front desk, where it can be stored in one of the cubicles that will be built into the desk. This way, when the customer arrives to pick up their order, the associate can immediately hand it over without having to spend time searching for and retrieving it from the back.
Finally, the customer can come into the store to pickup their order, and utilize the express lane designated for QP customers to head straight to the front desk. Having this lane will intrigue and hopefully incentivize other customers to begin using QP as well, and reward the customers who have already begun using it.
While the exact monetary return on investment would be difficult to calculate for such an early stage prototype, the business value is still evident. QP will enable a more seamless omnichannel shopping experience at Macy’s, which is crucial in order to keep loyal brick and mortar customers satisfied while simultaneously keeping up with the trend of the retail environment shifting online. A more streamlined BOPS process will consequently drive greater buyer traffic both online and in-store, while also resulting in more sales, as the Bell and Howell study also indicated that customers who experience a faster in-store pickup process are more likely to spend time browsing through the store after retrieving their order. A Pulse Commerce study also indicated that satisfied BOPS customers are likely to spend 25% more in-store.
Although we were able to develop an interactive Figma prototype for QuickPick relatively quickly, we knew that the audience of department managers and leads whom we would be presenting to would not bite unless we provided them with at least a high-level implementation plan to indicate how much time and effort this project would require.
To find this information, we met with a project manager on the mobile team and walked him through our concept. He estimated that from start to finish, it would take roughly 6 months to implement QuickPick, with an upper bound of 12 months to be conservative. A big chunk of these 6 months would involve developing, testing and implementing the software. Another portion of the time, effort and budget would be spent on distributing hardware like the associate tablets, and rearranging the stores to incorporate the storage cubicles behind the associates’ desks and the express lanes. Finally, some time would have to be spent training employees on how to utilize the new system.
If QuickPick were to be successfully implemented in-store, it could potentially be taken even further through features like an in-store GPS so that associates could track QP customers in-store and have an even more accurate estimate of when they’d be arriving at the pickup desk.
Ultimately, I learned so much through this project and was lucky enough to share the whole experience with the best teammates. I can admit that I was initially wary of how the developer interns might respond when I recommended conducting user research and looking into customer experience data and even designing high-fidelity prototypes, but I was amazed by how enthusiastic they were about all these ideas. I was also grateful for how willing they were to share their own skills and knowledge such that we could all work together to develop something that had the perfect balance of feasibility and creativity. So a huge shoutout to my wonderful team, and to all the Macy’s colleagues who helped us through this exciting journey!