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72% of UK shoppers now using click-and-collect, but in-store experience lets things down


As the march of click-and-collect continues unabated, more signs are beginning to show that reveal constraints are damaging the customer experience.
Last month, the 2016 InternetRetailing report on the UK’s top 500 retailers (IRUK Top500) discussed the prevalence of click-and-collect services – 58% of retailers now offer it, compared with 44% in 2015’s report.

Research from Cybertill echoes some of those findings. According to its survey of 2,000 shoppers (carried out in February by OnePoll):

65% of consumers make additional purchases when picking up click-and-collect items in-store

49% use click-and-collect more now than they did a year ago

17% ould abandon a purchase if a click-and-collect option was not available

32% have endured ‘long waits’ while store associates tried to find their parcel.

The question of whether retailers are struggling to keep up with click-and-collect demand arose in the wake of the Christmas period when almost two thirds of all online orders taken by M&S were routed for click-and-collect, and 35% of all John Lewis online orders were routed for collection from Waitrose.

The ease with which orders can be placed is seldom matched by the ease of collection, but as click-and-collect grows in terms of both the volume of shoppers using it, and their increasing reliance on it, those retailers that offer a sub-optimal in-store collection experience may find they are being harshly judged by customers.

Stores with their own dedicated collection areas – such as many John Lewis department stores – ought to fare better here. However, in many – if not most – Waitrose supermarkets, shoppers wanting to collect a parcel will find themselves cheek-by-jowl with people grocery shopping, getting cups for their free coffee, and having to wait for staff to become free to deal with their requests. Often this will mean waiting at a busy customer services desk where personnel are dealing with a range of shoppers, and the trip to retrieve parcels can mean a lengthy walk from one end of the store to the other.

The dedicated Argos FastTrack collection desks are a good example of how demarcation can help, but lose some of their edge during very busy periods, when queuing for general collections is especially busy, or even during quieter times when staff are not immediately present. This was covered in our roadtest of collection and deliveries in September last year.

And in a recent visit to toy store the Entertainer, to pick up a click-and-collect order, it took two members of staff several minutes to locate the tablet device they needed to call up the order’s details – revealing a level of back-end (dis)integration customers should never really have to witness.

According to the Cybertill research, 32% of shoppers have had to wait too long in a collection queue, and 32% said they’ve had to wait too long for goods to be retrieved.

It would be easy to dismiss such opinions as customers having unrealistic expectations, but also wrong-headed. Shoppers are enticed into placing orders by easy purchase and promises around delivery; if around one-in-three that choose to collect their purchase from your store are not having a good experience, you will lose some repeat custom.

Given that 21% of respondents told Cybertill and OnePoll they routinely use click-and-collect for around half of all their purchases, and 65% said they make additional in-store purchases when making a collection, this issue shouldn’t be dismissed at all. The gap between retailers that value every customer interaction highly and ensure great experiences during delivery and collection, and those that either don’t or can’t, is likely to become progressively wider over the coming year.

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