Online shopping habits have evolved and the majority of large retailers now offer Click+Collect to their customers. Some may say this is born from a lack of flexibility in the delivery service, but Retailers are now seeing other benefits, and also some challenges. Bricks and mortar retailers are discovering that encouraging Click+Collect increases footfall and in-store sales. Improved convenience also helps overall customer loyalty.
A great example of the new trend is ASOS now providing a Click+Collect service via Boots the Chemist. Another example is John Lewis who have seen 56% of online shoppers preferring Click+Collect to home delivery. They are encouraging the take-up by providing Click +Collect locations in John Lewis stores, Waitrose stores and even at local businesses such as petrol stations and corner shops.
So, back to my own Click+Collect experience. The purchased items from one particular store were made available on the 27th and I picked them up with not much fuss. Returning some of these items led to a far more complicated process. My order form had been printed from a printer with no ink (another weird and wonderful problem you encounter with increased sales!) so was illegible. The customer services lady at the counter was trying her best to locate the sales price for my items to action a refund. While this was happening another 5 people had joined the queue behind me, all wanting to either collect items from the store or make returns!
The lady dealing with my issue asked a young man to stop his stock taking and to run to the storeroom towards the back of the shop floor to collect the packages for the waiting customers. This was done as efficiently as humanly possible, which was a credit to the staff. However, it poses a logistical nightmare, especially on busy weekend lunchtimes. My purchases were refunded and I was on my way to join the other queue with my trolley of in-store purchases - as you can't pay for the goods at the same desk.
Low printer ink issues notwithstanding, the Click+Collect processes need some work. Logistics is a problem suffered by many shops. Department stores have now built Click+Collect desks nearer to the storerooms to allow for an efficient service. However, supermarkets may not find this an easy process especially if they have a smaller shop footprint.
Click+Collect provides the consumer with a clear benefit, goods received earlier and at a convenient location and for now, at no additional cost. The inconvenience occurs at the last point of the transaction, the actual collection. Online shopping in most cases means the retailer's responsibility ends when the goods are collected for delivery by the courier or delivered to Royal Mail. Now the retailer must ensure the goods reach the intended collection point and can seamlessly be delivered into the customer's hands.
Many stores are now looking at improving customer engagement with with technology on the shop floor. House of Fraser has specific HoF tablets in their Café Neros for browsing; Waitrose, with the help of partners such as Toshiba are including customer survey touchscreens. Trials have seen as much as 700 surveys being completed a week. Marks and Spencer have provided their staff with tablets for customer browsing and ordering.
Retailers believe technology and the improvement of customer experience need to work hand in hand. However, the Click+Collect consumer has demonstrated that their experience needs more thinking and Emphasis on In-store technology is only part of the solution. If you want to be proactive and know when your customer is ready to collect before they enter the store you need to trigger engagement on the one bit of hardware not in-store, the consumer's mobile phone.
A proactive process will capitalise on the full potential of Click+Collect
In nearly all cases an active online customer and specifically Click+Collect customers will be smart phone savvy. Statista and Kantar research in 2014 shows 71% of UK consumers now have a smartphone. Research shows nearly 90% of these consumers carry their phone with them at all times. A mobile report by Verve in 2013 shows 26% of US companies are successfully capitalising on the location of their customer for marketing purposes. Retailers that provide a Click+Collect service almost certainly provide a mobile responsive website or better yet a mobile app. So customer engagement now starts and ends with a mobile phone.
If you are a retailer, establishing clear and acceptable engagement by determining the location of your customer via their smart phone puts the ball firmly in your court. You have knowledge of their intention to collect in advance and have time to start the process. Presenting you with an opportunity to communicate with them about other offers in store.
And that is the win-win. A slick process means customers will choose Click+Collect as a preference, and retailers will get the benefit of lower cost delivery, increased customer loyalty and increased in-store sales.