Optimizing the Click-and-Collect Trend: The Challenges and Benefits

Photo:  BMO Capital Markets

Photo: BMO Capital Markets

By Joe Woods

The growing e-commerce trend of click-and-collect is upon us, especially with holiday shopping right around the corner.

The concept of click-and-collect is simple. A customer orders a product online and then proceeds directly to the physical retailer to collect his purchase. The popularity of this trend is that each shopper is able to browse online from the comfort of his own home and, rather than pay for shipping and anticipate the delivery, the shopper can collect his purchase from the store at his own convenience.

Benefits of click-and-collect are rich for both customers and retailers. For shoppers, it is a reasonable alternative to expensive same-day delivery, allowing shoppers to forgo shipping altogether and pick up locally. Shoppers have more options online than when shopping in-store. Retailers are also adopting price matching techniques with click-and-collect, giving shoppers cheaper price options as well as more product options.

For retailers who are continuously looking for ways to leverage their existing online solutions, a key way to earn consumer confidence is through a physical presence. Click-and-collect gives customers a tangible way to relate to a brand. This provides shoppers with a tactile engagement with products and also gives the assurance that they can immediately connect with customer service. Click-and-collect also allows for many retailers to focus on clearing their warehouses and store inventories, which effectively optimizes their brick and mortar shelf space for fulfillment for online customers. Eliminating seasonal rotations, store-to-store transfers and being able to use stores as customer pickups, or even shipment points, can eliminate many operational costs to an organization.

Though managing inventory is one major benefit to click-and-collect, in-store figures may often be harder to predict by allowing the service. Systems must be updated frequently to keep the most accurate figures both online and in-store. Additionally, some items may be more difficult to monitor if they are in-stock, set aside by store staff, or have been otherwise lost in storage. It is important to be transparent with the customer that his requests are subject to acknowledgement and confirmation by store staff. Difficulties can than be avoided when customer arrives at store to pick up product.

Reversely, these levels must also be visible and directly communicated with store management and sales staff as well. A key solution for this issue is to show inventory and a time check as to when the update was last made. This allows the customer some degree of confidence in the information.

Photo:   global-msi.com

Just as accurately communicating the order to the physical store is crucial, the store staff needs to be ready to respond to online orders in an effective way. This should be led by dedicated team members and be monitored with an overall process to alert the store that an online order has been made. A store must be able to trust its staff to properly keep track of inventory, monitor online purchases and set products aside in anticipation of the shopper’s arrival. This accuracy and brand engagement can be strengthened through incentive programs and should be an extreme priority. Incentives must be updated to allow for online transactions to be rewarded in a way that properly motivates staff to respond to these requests and service these customers properly.

The last essential key to implementing a successful click-and-collect feature is embracing a single customer view. Rather than separating consumers by “in store only” or “web order only”, retailers need to embrace a seamless integration between all touch points. The reality is that customers do not categorize themselves as an in-store shopper or an online shopper. They just recognize that they are buying a product from “x” store. To truly understand their needs and expectations, brands should embrace that understanding as well.

Though there are many challenges in implementing a successful click-and-collect service, brands that embrace these obstacles will likely satisfy customer needs, making for loyal shoppers. Realistically, a successful implementation does not happen overnight. Click-and-collect features should be heavily tested for glitches and clarity before brands offer the service to shoppers. A strong technology partner will be essential to help the brand achieve its goal.

Joe Woods, president of Loop Integration, is an experienced omni-commerce consultant and solution architect with more than 14 years of experience implementing retail commerce solutions.  His background includes time as a technical consultant for Technology Solutions Company, before joining Blue Martini Software in 2000.  Woods is a co-founder of contiigo (formerly Loyalty Tech) in Sydney and has built a successful team culminating in the hybris APAC partner of the year award in 2012.

Today's Retail News From Around The Web: October 24, 2014