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Customer deliveries: A retail pick-me-up

The growing popularity of click-and-collect presents an opportunity for retailers.

With industry estimates that the service could be worth as much as £4bn by 2018, click-and-collect is big business for the UK high street.

The past year alone has seen click-and-collect launches from Superdry owner SuperGroup, Selfridges, Gant and Joules, while Burberry’s sales via the service doubled in its 2013 financial year following a full roll-out.

Shopping centres are even getting in on the act, with Westfield this year launching a click-and-collect trial at its west London centre, allowing customers to pick up and try on orders from more than 260 retailers including Asos, House of Fraser and Topshop. And with fashion chains such as New Look, which launched the service in 2011, reporting that one in four of its online customers now use click-and-collect, it’s clear that it is very much in demand with convenience-seeking consumers.

David Staunton, senior product marketing manager at logistics software provider MetaPack, says click-and-collect represents the cheapest way to deliver products. “A retailer’s delivery vehicle to store is a fixed asset, it will go whether it is full or not. And if it isn’t then they are paying for empty space,” he says. He adds that in the past two years store deliveries for click-and-collect for MetaPack’s top-tier customers rose from 30% to about 50%.

Carl Moore, operations director at logistics firm Clipper, says that for some of its retail customers, as much as 60% of online orders are click-and-collect. “The appeal for customers is that they know it’s going to be there when they go into store,” he says. “They don’t have to rely on a courier turning up.”

Additionally, if a customer walks in to return a product, the retailer has an opportunity to retain the sale by trying to sell an alternative, something that pure-play etailers would find much harder.

John Lewis was an early adopter and launched its click-and-collect proposition in 2008. “Feedback from customers at a very early stage was very positive. They liked having the option to deliver to store where they knew it would be waiting and the flexibility of not having to wait in for a courier,” says director of operations Simon Russell.

If a customer orders before 7pm they receive their order by 2pm the next day and John Lewis Partnership now delivers to 200 Waitrose and 40 John Lewis shops. Russell says click-and-collect represents about 30% to 35% of online orders and use of the service has increased 57% on last year.

Key learnings have been made around best practice in regards to service standards, implementation, and - particularly for the department store businesses - location of collection points. “I think in the past it was seen as an inconvenience for stores, not as integrated and often pushed towards the back of the shop. However, now the savvy retailers recognise the value and importance of it,” says Moore. “Now it’s part of the whole multichannel experience, and click-and-collect areas will often have a comfortable sofa and maybe coffee on the go. It has been much better thought out.”

Helen Ahsan, store operations manager for multichannel at Debenhams, believes customers are happy with the location as long as they know where a collection point is and that it is well signposted in store.

“Click-and-collect is about convenience for the customer, with most parcels being collected during lunch hours, after school or work,” she says, adding that the speed between a customer’s arrival and the parcel being ready is critical. “They have limited time during a lunch hour to pick their parcels up, therefore it is really key that the process is seamless, making it an efficient experience and leaving the customer wanting to order again.”

Debenhams launched its click-and-collect service in January 2010, rebranded it in September last year and is shortly planning a relaunch with an eye on future growth. Ahsan says this year, 30% of Debenhams’ ecommerce business is set to be fulfilled by click-and-collect.

“All our stores are set to have dedicated click-and-collect departments installed this year, offering our customers a seamless online and in-store experience,” she says. “We are set to create a fabulous environment - with fully trained staff, an easy collection service, a fitting room to be available within the department so that customers can try on their collections, and a self-service order kiosk to place additional orders or exchanges. We are also working on the speed of our deliveries as we know that this is key to a great service.”

Russell says John Lewis places collection points close to doors - largely because much of the product sold, such as furniture, white goods and electricals, is quite bulky - but like Debenhams it has refined the way it presents these areas. “We have invested in them. Historically, they used to be an area that was off the shop floor and the spec wasn’t as high. But we have opened them up and upped the spec, so that it is the same standard and is seen as an extension of the shop floor.”

He also agrees that speed and convenience is key and John Lewis has invested in its systems as a result. He says: “What we have learnt from customers is that when they arrive at a collection point, the speed of arrival to picking up their item is quite important. So we have streamlined our approach to be faster.”

While department stores might have space to play with, smaller stores often have to use their tills as collection points.

“Retailers need to weigh up the physical limitations of stores. Do they have the stock room availability, and how many people
do they need on a counter? If one person is dealing with a collection then they are not selling and does that mean they need to employ someone new?” says Staunton.

Lifestyle retailer Crew Clothing launched click-and-collect in 2012 and commercial director Amy Bastow agrees that such issues need to be considered. “What becomes important are the processes because you are effectively using the till point,” she says. “So you need a super-organised system to match the order with the customer.”

She says store staff must be able to clearly see what is coming in for click-and-collect as opposed to normal store replenishment, and that simple measures such as red labels on boxes can work well.

Updating the customer on where their delivery is via text messages or email alerts is also important. “It’s no longer good enough for things to just arrive,” says Moore, adding that retailers must try to overachieve against their own service level targets. John Lewis introduced text alerts early on and Russell believes it allows the customer peace of mind and improves the shopping experience.

Staunton agrees and adds that predictability is what consumers want. “If you look at River Island for example, it doesn’t offer standard click-and-collect as a next-day proposition. Normally it is a three- or four-day window. But where it is successful is telling the consumer at the point of checkout that it is going to be four days,” he says.

White Stuff launched click-and-collect last year, and chief executive Jeremy Seigal says the lifestyle retailer has seen a “significant uptake”. He adds that one of its key learnings has been around staff training to be able to communicate the proposition, and warns that those who don’t focus on this can “fail to connect the dots between online and offline”, resulting in a disjointed customer experience.

A real-time, clear and accurate view of stock reporting is also key to ensure a click-and-collect service runs seamlessly.

“Businesses need full access to stock, whether it is in the shop or the distribution centre. The staff or consumer need to be able to get a hold of that stock easily to maximise the opportunity,” says Seigal.

One of the as yet largely untapped opportunities is around how fashion retailers can then use the data they are capturing on their consumers across channels, to either upsell or encourage add-on sales.

“We aim to engage with all customers collecting parcels, discussing what has been collected and linking it to relative product on the sales floor and talking about promotions that the customer may be interested in,” says Ahsan, adding that when a customer collects a parcel, they can also receive a discount voucher to spend in store that day.

Looking ahead, Moore expects retailers to start maximising returns from click-and-collect customers using tools such as near-field-communication via their mobile devices when they enter stores. He says: “It is still in its infancy but I can see retailers really leveraging that opportunity in the future.”

Click-and-collect isn’t all about picking up in store

Collection in store may be popular with customers, but the multichannel shopper is demanding a suite of delivery options.

Collect+ is used by more than 30 brands, as well as retailers such as Asos, Bank, New Look and Topman. It allows customers to pick up deliveries from more than 5,500 newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets and petrol stations. Goods can also be returned via the service to more than 260 retailers, including Bhs, Clarks and Hobbs. There are also similar services offered by UPS Access Point.

“We are trialling Collect +,” says John Lewis’s Simon Russell. “It allows us to extend our reach of collection points beyond the John Lewis and Waitrose estate. The service costs £3 and we are reviewing the trial.”

Alternatively, shoppers can opt to have deliveries sent to secure lockers using solutions such as MyByBox. Deliveries can be made to more than 400 MyByBox parcel delivery lockers located at supermarkets, train stations, petrol stations, Big Yellow Self Storage, shopping centres and sports clubs. Customers can also use MyByBox to return goods, with retailers such as Figleaves, Missguided and Very using the service. Logistics firm MyHermes has also teamed up with MyByBox to launch a locker service for its consumer delivery service, while InPost also offers this service.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Collect + is great for customers and for convenience retailers.

    Also, now that the Royal Mail is privatised, I predict developments to compete with Amazon.

    Savvy fashion retailers should also look to pool these logistics. Save money being part of a syndicate and give better customer service that shared economies permit.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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