The arrival of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has brought back into focus the demands faced by retailers during the busiest time of the year, especially around click & collect.

The multi-channel nature of click & collect poses challenges to retailers who have evolved from pure bricks and mortar operations. In-store click & collect requires measured diplomacy between ecommerce, technology, retail operations and logistics directors to get it right. The lack of ownership is evident in the fact there isn’t a retail exec within the first 20 pages of LinkedIn with the title of Director/Head of Click & Collect.

With Australia’s adoption of click & collect growing, experiences in the US and UK foreshadow the challenges the service faces as it gains popularity locally. Scrolling Twitter, a reliable barometer of customer frustration, comments aimed at the largest retailers in the UK and US following Black Friday and Cyber Monday reveal customers were feeling less than festive about the state of click & collect.

The top five click & collect complaints this cyber weekend:

  • Changing the delivery fee for click & collect
  • Long click & collect queues or no dedicated queue for click & collect
  • Accepting a click & collect order then cancelling it days later due to insufficient stock
  • Not communicating changed/delayed click & collect delivery times over the sale period
  • Turning click & collect off during sale period

What are the causes of these complaints and how can Aussie retailers learn from international mistakes? Primarily it comes down to an under-investment in click & collect tech. Despite click & collect growing 50 per cent year-on-year in the US over the Cyber weekend and accounting for 35.8 per cent of sales by multi-channel retailers in the UK, a worrying number of retailers still rely on manual processes to manage in-store click & collect.

Manually recording orders in notebooks only adds pain for staff and customers and increases the FTE requirement to run a click & collect service. Buying a fit for purpose click & collect technology solution will save time and money in the short and long term.

Investing in click & collect tech to make the service more robust during peak periods also sets retailers up for success by increasing sales both online and in-store. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 27 per cent of US shoppers used click & collect over the Cyber Weekend with 64 per cent of those customers making an additional purchase in-store. In the case of retailers who turn the service off for fear of overwhelming stores at peak periods they hurt themselves (especially the bottom line) three times over:

  • Abandoned online sales due to preferred option not being available
  • Zero up-sell opportunities from those customers coming into store to collect orders
  • Lost future sales from lapsed customers following poor experiences

Other ways to mitigate overwhelming click & collect demand at peak periods include:

  1. Activating click & collect dark stores to manage volume overflow. That might be a pop up in the carpark or condensing floor stock in a slower moving department over peak to allow for greater storage.
  2. Communication. Letting customers know when your store is at its busiest and they may face queues, as well as the quieter times to visit will help reduce click & collect congestion. Keep them informed if order fulfilment takes longer than expected and be transparent on your website if delays occur.
  3. Offer more click & collect locations. For retailers part of a larger group of brands, activating the whole network for inter-brand click & collect expands the convenience that can be offered to customers but also keeps foot traffic in-house. Third party pick-up & drop-off networks can do this as well by providing customers with location choices that your store network doesn’t offer.

Getting click & collect right isn’t easy but it’s too big an opportunity to ignore. Australian retailers have a unique opportunity to learn from overseas experience and build click & collect services designed to delight customers from the start that will withstand future peaks. Investing in the technology, having clear customer communication and minimising manual operations, retailers will drive sales across channels and also save the customer service team from a barrage of Twitter complaints!

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