It’s a contentious point, but last month I questioned whether in-store click-and-collect is still fit for purpose. It was a story that garnered more reader responses in the form of emails, comments, messages via LinkedIn, Tweets and so on, than I had anticipated.
Maybe it’s not broken per se, but some customers certainly had sub-optimal experiences of in-store click-and-collect over the Christmas 2015 peak, and if user volumes continue to grow those problems will not only be repeated but will be worse. Unless, of course, something is done.
So what are the most likely somethings that will help in-store collection keep going? In this, the second of my series of click-and-collect focus pieces, I hear the view of some people in the industry, who see click-and-collect from different perspectives.
Liam Chennells is head of commercial at eBay’s Shutl, one of the fast delivery pioneers. Last year, just as the peak was getting under way, Shutl rolled out a wonderfully counter-intuitive service with high street fashion retailer River Island. The click-and-don’t-collect service tackled head-on the problem of shoppers simply not collecting their purchases, by giving them the option of having items re-routed by Shult and brought to them.
“The rate of non-collection for some retailers can be anything between 1% and 25% of items,” he tells me.
With some retailers doing over a million click-and-collect orders per month that’s a scenario that has the potential to cause real problems. But offering shoppers a click-and-collect fall-back like Shutl isn’t only about fending off a bottleneck in the storeroom.
“Alleviating non-collection is a priority for some, but for others it’s about enhancing the customer experience. Giving customers control and choice is paramount – it’s more important than cost or speed. We’re 50:50 between ‘I want it now’ and ‘I want it when I want it,’” Chennells says.
And in that regard he echoes the point made my Richard Locke of Ocado who, when speaking at the eDelivery Expo in April, said: “Click-and-collect is solving the problem of delivering to someone when they’re not in – the real solution is to deliver to them where they are, when they are.
“Click-and-collect will hopefully see a decline – I’d like to see that – I’d like to see us getting things to people when they want them. I’d like to see people being more demanding, saying you come here when I want you to, and more fussy.”
Getting the balance right between choice and convenience is part of the never-ending retail conundrum, of course. But just because a new idea goes down well to start with you shouldn’t go thinking you’ve found the holy grail, Chennells cautions. “The reason click-and-collect went so well at first was the choice it gave to customers. But people want more innovation.
“The twin components of necessity and desire will be the reason people change their minds.”
Mark Hennessy is chief business development officer at Pelipod, the company that developed a secure parcel container incorporating 2G comms and a built-in camera, that could be used outside people’s homes, or in commercial settings. Like Shutl’s Chennells he thinks click-and-collect may have lost some of its shine, or even that it lacked some in the first place.
“It seems to me that click-and-collect like was invented for shops not for shoppers. It’s convenient if you happen to be going to the shops anyway, but if I use it it’s under sufferance,” he says.
The challenges of the final mile are never going to be solved by a single silver bullet solution, but a mix of offers. One such may be giving people their own secure, personal PUDO point. Although that will require changes in habit, overcoming trust and security concerns, and carriers agreeing to support their use by training their drivers to look for – and correctly use a driveway PUDO; of course, no one needs reminding that some couriers are already apt to leave parcels inside rubbish bins and other ‘out of the way’ places.
According to Hennessy, some carriers are looking at running trials of Pelipods and in parts of the UK, and they’re already being used as forward stocking locations or as a fall-back point to keep failed delivery items close to a route rather than have them returned to depot.
There is even talk of them being used as potential click-and-collect overflow points.
But, says Hennessy, the issue of convenience is all important. “Customers want home delivery – everything else is a compromise. Retailers want to get the goods into the shoppers hands.
“As click-and-collect becomes clogged the advantages of in-store collection are eroded, for retailer and customer alike.”
In the next of these features I’ll be talking to some of the more visible and well-known alternatives to in-store collection, Collect+ and Doddle. In the meantime, if you have an opinion on click-and-collect or any of the points touched on above, please feel free to leave a comment below.