M&S is trialling drive-through click and collect for clothes and other non-food goods as it looks at how to repurpose its store estate.
As part of its ‘Never the same again’ reform programme outlined at its full year results in May, the retailer is looking at how to revamp click and collect to allow for contactless collection in stores, as well as trialling a drive through pick up.
First launched in 2009, M&S now has one of the biggest collection networks in the UK with nearly 8,000 collection points. Prior to Covid-19 the retailer improved the order cut off time it offers by three hours in just one year.
Before March around 70% of online M&S orders were collected in Clothing and Food stores, whilst this fell to a low of 15% when clothing space was closed, it has gradually been rising again in recent weeks and is now around 50%.
With the trend towards digital now accelerated, M&S has launched two new trials for Click & Collect—in-store contactless collection at Hempstead Valley, Camberley & Longbridge, as well as a drive-up collection at Camberley.
With a number of customer benefits, both propositions are ideal for helping customers shop with confidence during this unprecedented time and offer a far more convenient and seamless journey; the drive-up collection for example eliminates two potential queues to enter the shop and at the Click & Collect desk.
The new service will use Doddle’s technology, with the initial three-store trial set to help M&S understand customer demand and will be rigorously measured with data and by gathering extensive customer feedback.
The team will also measure the expectation that Click & Collect will become more efficient for colleagues to manage in-store using this technology.
Neil Phillips, Head of Digital Operations at M&S, explains: “Great digital technology in our stores is really important for offering our customers a great experience and for connecting the online and in-store journey. These trials with Doddle offer market leading solutions for Click & Collect, a proposition which will only grow over the coming years as the trend towards online shopping continues to accelerate. We’ll be listening carefully to our customers’ feedback.”
Gary O’Connor, CTO at Doddle, adds: “We are delighted to be working with M&S to trial new click & collect technology in selected stores. Online shopping has rapidly accelerated, and we’re confident that our digital in-store collections and drive-up solution will benefit M&S and their customers—with an even more convenient way to receive their purchases.”
Behind the scenes changes
In addition to trialling customer-facing changes, M&S is also making important behind the scenes changes to Click & Collect as it becomes a faster and more efficient operation adapted to changing customer shopping habits.
This includes increasing the use of in-store picking and packing for online orders. M&S now has 239 stores fulfilling online orders which is 153 more than pre-Covid—initially increased to support M&S’s warehouse and clear stock from stores, it has long-term potential to help improve the customer proposition and balance stock between stores and online.
This change means thousands of customer orders are now put together in their local store, supported by M&S’s online warehouse – Castle Donington.
During Covid M&S also added the option on its website to ‘contact me when available’ for every single Clothing, Home and Beauty item. It means when an item is back in stock customers receive an email or text and then simply log on to order for delivery or next day Click & Collect. Thousands of items are purchased every week via the tool.