Click and collect felt inescapable this December.

Just on my half hour walk to work I would see multiple ads for eBay’s partnership with Argos, John Lewis and Tesco promoting their click and collect services on bus stops and in shop windows.

One piece of research published in October made the bold prediction that 95% of online shoppers will use click and collect over Christmas 2014, more than double the percentage who used it in 2013.

Although the Postcode Anywhere survey of 2,400 online shoppers seemed rather optimistic, it’s a customer service trend that’s definitely worth being positive about.

Click and collect gives the customer almost complete control over delivery as they can pick up purchases when and where they choose. For added convenience it’s also free.

Post Christmas analysis

According to JDA/YouGov research published today 39% of online shoppers opted to use click & collect services this Christmas.

A percentage substantially lower (-56%) than the figure predicted by the Postcode Anywhere survey. It’s also 6% lower than the number we reported in our Christmas 2013 survey: 45% of UK online consumers used click-and-collect for Christmas shopping.

Out of the 2,400 shoppers surveyed, 61% of those that used click and collect cited avoiding delivery charges as their biggest motivation and 53% cited the greater convenience offered.

More than a third (34%) stated that they would use click and collect again next Christmas.

Again these figures are much lower than expected, but perhaps slightly more worrying are the low levels of customer satisfaction.

Although 40% of click & collect shoppers had a very positive experience of using the service, 35% of users encountered negative issues:

  • 30% experienced long waiting times due to a lack of in-store staff.
  • 29% cited a lack of a dedicated area in-store for click and collect purchases.
  • 25% said staff were unable to look or took a long time to source goods in-store.

Some major retailers were experiencing problems much earlier than December.

As David Moth reported in 'How are retailers promoting click & collect online?' Tesco had suffered a fulfilment disaster after failing to deliver many Black Friday click and collect orders on time. 

On the following Friday it displayed a banner notifying customers that due to “unprecedented demand” it was currently unable to provide next day click and collect deliveries.

Marks and Spencer had also been forced to withdraw its click and collect service, and deliveries to customers’ homes were delayed by up to two weeks as its new distribution centre failed to cope with Black Friday demand.

However there are major rays of optimism to be found elsewhere. 

Success for John Lewis

For the department store, click and collect overtook home delivery for the first time during Christmas 2014.

56% of John Lewis’s online customers chose to collect their goods from stores, rather than have them delivered to home addresses.

Total sales for John Lewis for the five weeks up to 27 December were a record £777m, up 5.8% on the same period last year.

As counter sales fell by around 1%, the growth can be entirely attributed to a 19% rise in online sales compared with Christmas 2013.

Ways to improve click and collect

Clearly it’s all about connecting the online proposition with the offline reality.

Many brands have an excellent approach to promoting click and collect, as evidenced by its ubiquity this winter, as well there being an increase in retailers adopting it as a delivery option.

However the user experience of click and collect differs in quality across various ecommerce sites. 

Schuh has clear CTAs on every product page allowing you to check stock in any branch, then you can either buy online and collect in-store, or reserve the item in-store and pay after you try them on.

Halfords on the other hand provides a confusing array of CTAs on each product page, meaning that the click and collect stock checker is easy to overlook.

John Lewis obviously has a very succesful click and collect service, but only mentions it on product pages for items that are available for delivery via this method.

As a result, shoppers may not realise that click and collect is available on alternative products.

Although these UX niggles are important to iron out, the key thing to achieve, as I mentioned earlier, is making the whole multichannel experience as connected and as excellent as it can be.

If a significant proportion of your online shoppers are choosing not to have their goods delivered to their home but to store, these customers will expect the same hassle-free, customer-focused experience on the high street store as they did online.

This means:

  • Providing a specific area with a customer service team to deal with click and collect enquiries (which in my experience TopShop’s Oxford Street branch does very well).
  • Ensuring there aren’t lengthy queues.
  • Keeping customers informed regularly on the status of their order.
  • Making sure opening times are clearly communicated not just in store but online and most importantly in direct email or text messages to the customer.
  • Make sure deliveries are clearly labelled and organised in stock rooms so that customers don’t have to wait too long.
Christopher Ratcliff

Published 8 January, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Joe Tarragano

Joe Tarragano, Group Managing Director at Pentagon

I completely agree. C&C will only grow but it needs refining and more investment. As you state, it's an end to end thing. We've a framework for auditing c&c and identifying changes and it necessarily covers 50+ topics. It must start with
1) the proposition (eg M&S does next day before 5pm vs JL's 2pm, while Schuh can do 1 hour, and Argos shows you a range of stores with brilliant stock availability info), then
2) cover the ecommerce user experience (often the easiest bit)
3) the DC layout, process, comms & despatch
4) the store back of house
5) in store experience (and see this quick review of 4 depts stores' experience: http://www.transformuk.com/all-i-want-for-christmas-2015-is-improved-click-and-collect/) and
6) encompass returns, lockers and 3rd parties.

Good C&C like all multi channel initiatives is truly cross functional and needs someone focusing holistically on the customer experience soup to nuts.

over 2 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Another side of the coin for us is allowing customers to see what a particular store stocks, not just "is this shoe in this shop", for example: http://www.schuh.co.uk/results.aspx?branchRef=47&branchName=London+Oxford+Circus#bRef=47

So while most user journeys start with the shoe (i.e you know what you want, we then help you get it in a way that suits you), this helps you if you don't know what you want but you know where you are going.

Now, it's not perfect yet, for example, once you have chosen your product and go to reserve it you need to re-choose your store, but still very useful. We'll be making further improvements to the user journey this year.

over 2 years ago

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Ellie Turner, Digital Marketing Executive at Floormonster

100% agree, the in-store side of the proposition needs improvement. As a consumer I will always choose to collect if possible, but often the in-store experience has been a let down. A trip to my local B&Q was a prime example - only one person on the tills who was dealing with locating one customer's click and collect order while a large queue was forming - a sign I think that a designated click & collect zone would have been helpful!

I can't understand retailers like H&M who don't offer the service as it's become almost expected now, although they always have been behind in terms of ecommerce!

over 2 years ago

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Elise Barber, National Online Development Manager at Woolworths

Maybe some of the GM C&C services would do well to look at advances made in the grocery sector, the likes of Asda and Waitrose have been working on a digital solution to enhance the C&C customer experience and in my opinion are heading in the right direction.

over 2 years ago

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee, Web Analytics Manager at Evans Cycles

I found this interesting, but not surprising.

The research that I've conducted has revealed that customers who would have normally used Delivery are now choosing Click & Collect as they find it more convenient. They found C&C offered them more control of when they get the item and they won't need to go on a trek to their local post office with a 'sorry you were out' card.

I largely agree with this segment of customers, as I am in the same category myself. The only time I take home delivery is when the courier is reliable and the delivery time highly specified.

Maybe Click & Collect is therefore benefiting more because Home Delivery has these issues?

over 2 years ago

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Jolyon Platts, Director at Collectec

I agree with your conclusions Christopher. Retailers need to provide an in-store service to continue the speed and convenience the customer wants from the Click & Collect service. Making customers queue up and then wait for their goods will not lead to repeat use. Retailers need to have flexible systems in place to cope with collections that don't come in easy manageable steady streams but rather peaks of customer convenience! This is the part of the collection service the customer "experiences" and is therefore very important.

over 2 years ago

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Pauline Ashenden, Marketing Manager at Eptica

The key thing is to understand that (as the JDA research found) convenience is one of the major factors driving Click & Collect. Therefore making it time consuming to pick up goods, effectively delivering a second class service, is going to harm the overall brand and also make it less likely that shoppers buy more in-store when they are picking up their online purchase. There’s more on the importance of convenience in retail in this Eptica blog post https://eptica.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/the-lessons-for-retailers-from-christmas-2014/

over 2 years ago

Joe Tarragano

Joe Tarragano, Group Managing Director at Pentagon

Pauline, I completely agree on convenience. Many retailers continue to site the C&C desk at the back, on the top floor. This makes sense for the returns desk - the customer now has money in their pocket and an unmet need. But for collections the customer's shop is done, and they want to get in and out. Putting it right at the front of store, or even in the car park as many grocery locations have, makes a lot of sense in many contexts. That's one of the reason why I like JL's Oxford Street C&C location - a corner of the building on the ground floor with direct street access.

over 2 years ago

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