With consumers moving to online shopping in droves, retailers are looking for more ways to meet their needs. The number one barrier to shopping online is the cost of delivery. 53% of consumers will change online retailers to get low cost shipping. However, Planet Retail research also shows that one in four online shoppers are deterred by inconvenient delivery times. With only 44% of consumers home during normal business hours to receive their package, this makes sense. It is critical for retailers to meet the shipping and delivery needs of consumers in a fashion that is both flexible and cost effective for both the consumer and the retailer.
Enter the rise of click-and-collect shipping.
It’s no wonder that the percentage of consumers choosing click-and-collect is expected to double over the next 18 months. Since consumers already browse and shop on their own terms, fulfillment is poised to be the next big battleground in retail. In order to win at click-and-collect, retailers need to focus on the following 5 key success factors.
1. Make the online experience seamless.
The online experience is the start of the customer journey that leads to the click-and-collect sale. Online, mobile and in-store must work seamlessly to provide the best possible customer experience. The only way to achieve this is by ensuring that click-and-collect is part of your omni-channel strategy.
You must educate your customers first. Best practice is to highlight click-and-collect as an option throughout your site to ensure consumers know it is an option and understand how it works. From your home page, using pictures rather than words, there should be a link explaining the click-and-collect process. Spelling out the benefits of click-and-collect for consumers helps to build engagement.
To start, online retailers need clear choices on every product page, allowing consumers to check stock in any location on a store-by-store basis. This means that inventory must be available in real time and accuracy is a must. Inventory must be seen in an omni-channel view. Separate online and in-store merchandise doesn’t work for either the consumer or the retailer.
However, the consumer should not have to choose the pick-up location until the checkout process. When The Gap launched their Reserve In Store service, consumers were forced to choose the pick-up location by item without seeing available inventory for their entire basket. This method made it difficult to coordinate all items in the basket allowing the consumer to pick-up everything at one store, if they are not having product shipped to a locker.
For some product, consumers do not want to purchase until they have had the opportunity to see the item. Expanding the offer to allow consumer to shop online and pay in-store, or reserve in-store and pay once seen, can help to reduce product returns.
Using GPS technology to suggest the click-and-collect location closest to a customer’s location makes the checkout process smoother and faster for consumers. In addition, previous pick-up data and payment information can be stored in a customer’s account. However, if the pick-up location changes from the regular location, best practice is to ask to have the payment information re-entered and verify the purchase via email, protecting both the consumer and retailer.
Another option, when there is a variety of pick-up locations and, in some cases, seasonal pick-up locations, is to make it easy for consumers to find a convenient location by giving them a map with pictures. Asking consumers to recognize an exact address is difficult and could lose the sale.
2. Have consistent communications.
When asked what frustrates them most about online purchases, shoppers frequently cite the lack of communication about order status. This is usually an easy fix. However, the best-in-class retailers allow customers to browse across multiple channels to track their order. They also use frequent communication to let them know where the order is in the fulfillment process and to highlight store and click-and-collect location opening times, noting off-peak hours for pick-ups with each email or text.
3. Use partnerships to improve pick-up.
Click-and-collect is designed to look at delivery in terms of ‘customer journeys’ rather than just focusing on where customers live. In order to do this successfully, retailers may pair up with some unconventional partners and service providers to meet consumer needs for choice and convenience. For example, 57% of click-and-collect orders through John Lewis are picked up at sister brand Waitrose’s stores.
While growth in click-and-collect is still predicted to be driven by the continued roll-out of in-store collection points, alternative pick-up points such as lockers—currently used by 4% of online shoppers—and third party stores—currently used by 12% of shoppers—will be strong. For retailers, collecting from outside or at third party locations reduces the opportunity for associates to upsell/cross sell. But, for smaller brands with few stores, it provides a customer centric solution.
Retailers need to structure their pick-up process to ebb and flow with customer demand or they run the risk of turning off customers. While the most popular click-and-collect location is in-store, some click-and-collect retailers are trying creative solutions to expand the number of pick-up points and handle fluctuating demand: Amazon offers locker pick-up, and eBay creates pop-up click-and-collect locations during peak shopping periods.
4. Optimize the in-store experience.
For a variety of reasons, many retailers prefer to encourage consumers to come in store to pick-up their order. Retailers learned that they could better manage the customer experience with in-store pick-up, relative to picking up at a locker or third party location, and can upsell and cross-sell additional products and handle returns more efficiently. In fact, the best retailers have found that click-and-collect drives in-store footfall and incremental spend, and has become more than just another delivery channel. It is now a marketing device, part of an integrated marketing strategy.
When surveyed, 40% of click-and-collect shoppers said they had a very positive experience using the service; however, 35% encountered negative issues, including:
- 30% experienced long waiting times due to a lack of in-store staff.
- 29% cited a lack of a dedicated area in-store for click-and-collect purchases.
- 25% said staff were unable to find, or took a long time to find, their orders in-store.
This highlights some critical areas for retailers to focus on in-store. First, associates must have a process and be trained to quickly pick, pack and set aside, in a specific area, the click-and-collect orders. It is also important to look at how they are incented. If the focus is based on in-store sales, associates will be less likely to provide the same level of customer service for click-and-collect customers. Training needs to teach associates how to use this traffic to generate additional or cross sale purchases. And of course, when there is a glitch with technology, the in-store associates’ attitude and service can save the day. If they run to the shelf, pick the product and pack it immediately, it can save the sale. It is only with thorough training that management will be able to trust the associates to be able to deliver the in-store customer experience promised through the online sales experience.
Having a separate checkout area and good in-store signage can help with click-and-collect success. When designing this area, it is critical to think about how you want to allow customers to check orders in-store. Click and reserve necessitates it but, for some orders, customers want to open and verify the contents before leaving the store.
Loss prevention requires that associates verify that the order is picked up by the correct customer. Requiring the customer to produce the credit card used for the purchase forces the person ordering to pick it up, but this can defeat the convenience of click-and-collect for some customers. Some retailers have found a solution that allows others to pick up, by sending a text or email to the person placing the order, which must be presented at pick-up, but cannot be forwarded.
5. Simplify returns.
Returns for click-and-collect shoppers can be a challenge. However, easy and free returns are critical to getting consumers to try click-and-collect. Avoid any surprises by clearly communicating your returns policy and process at the time of order. Have this prominently featured on your website and with the package.
Offering a variety of easy drop-off locations for click-and-collect order returns ensures the customer doesn’t see this step as a deterrent to purchase. Another way to make it easy and increase the likelihood that the product will not be damaged during the return process is to make your packaging reusable.
Fulfilment is poised to be the next big battleground in retail. Consumers are choosing click-and-collect to avoid delivery charges and benefit from the greater convenience offered. Use the five tips above to do it right, and enjoy increased customer loyalty and a competitive edge.