For all the benefits that online shopping brings its Achilles heel has always been the final part of the process, the delivery, with often the consumer being left with two options.
Option 1. Wait in all day and hope the parcel arrives sooner rather than later.
Option 2. Go about your daily life as normal and expect to find a card pushed through your letter box saying that the delivery company tried to leave your item and that it is now available for collection from their local depot.
There, in option 2 is the birth of click and collect.
It really came to the fore within the UK sector in 2014, with revenue from click and collect sales more than doubling between 2012 and 2014 to reach $8.7 billion. Deloitte consultants also state that in 2015 online sales accounted for around 13% of retail sales of which a third were click and collect orders. However this could be an underestimation of the UK’s demand for a click and collect service.
John Lewis reported that over the 2014 festive period 56% of its online sales opted for the click and collect service. This may be a reflection of the shopping period and customers not wanting to get to the store only to find the item they wanted had sold out, but once customers have tried the service they are only likely to use it more.
Some reports put the figure at around 76% of customers using click and collect services by 2017 so what are the challenges to retailers who want to take advantage of this trend?
Inventory – providing real-time inventory information between online site and local retail store requires investment in the right infrastructure.
Omnichannel experience – building a coherent link between a customer’s experience online and what happens in store is fundamental to building stronger relationships.
Incentivised sales staff – can in store sales staff who are often on incentivised schemes provide the same level of service to a click and collect customer when there is no bonus available to them?
Many retail outlets may need to reconsider their staffing levels, pay structures and in store experience as a result of the growing demand for click and collect services.
This sector of the retail market is changing rapidly at the moment with both John Lewis and Tesco moving away from a free service to one that charges on orders below £30. Whether this has an impact on their figures remains to be seen but presumably their accountants will have worked out the level at which they make the most profit.
The king of online stores, Amazon is once again working out ways to deliver to its customers in the most efficient way. In addition to its pick-up lockers situated in numerous locations around the country it is also delivering within one hour to its Prime customers within certain locations, meaning no more missed parcel notes.
The link between third parties is also likely to continue with House of Fraser offering click and collect services from Café Nero, with Ebay, not wanting to miss out, joining up with Argos.
And the knock on effect for delivery companies? In the future I cannot see many people wanting to wait in all day, so perhaps more delivery firms will start to put the customer first and provide delivery solutions that meet the buyer’s needs by offering specific delivery times.