Allowing customers to reserve items online for instore pick up is working well for retailers, with both Argos and Halfords posting impressive improvements in multichannel revenues.

In both cases, reserve and collect services were responsible for driving significant numbers of offline sales.

While overall profits for both retailers were relatively unchanged, Argos increased its multichannel revenues, accounting for 42% of sales in the last quarter. up from 26% in the year to February. Its Click and Reserve service was responsible for 17% of all sales, growing by 45%.

Halfords, which only introduced its Reserve and Collect service just over a year ago, reported a 90% growth in multichannel revenues in the 12 months up to April.

These collect in store services offer users the chance to browse online with a view to but at a local store. It can save the customer a wasted journey by allowing them to check local product inventory levels.

It also gets around customer concerns about delivery charges, and as well as appealing to shoppers who may be not be able to stay at home and wait for deliveries.

There is the challenge for retailers of integrating online and offline channels so that product inventory levels are kept up to date, but the benefits in terms of driving offline sales have been worth the effort for Halfords, Argos and others.

It’s not enough just to offer these services though; they must be made as usable as possible for customers. Here are a few recommendations:

Don’t charge for delivery to stores

One of the reasons that customers will choose to reserve and collect is to avoid delivery costs, so there shouldn’t be any extra charge for this. Unless you spend over £25, Boots will charge £2.89 to collect items from your local store, which must deter a few customers.

Allow shoppers to check inventory before checkout

Save customers the bother of adding products to their basket and registering before finding that products are out of stock at the local store by allowing them to check stock levels on the product pages. 

This is what Halfords and Argos both do. In the example below, Argos advises that just 4 items are available at the local store, which is a good incentive for customers to make the purchase:

Argos reserve and collect

Offer to deliver items to local stores

In cases where the local store is sold out of a particular product, offering customers the option of having the product delivered there may be enough to save the sale.

Suggest alternatives that are available in store

If a particular product is unavailable in the nearest store, offering an alternative, similar, item is the next best option.

Promote collect in store offers in emails

If you offer the reserve and collect option, then promoting this in your email marketing can help drive offline as well as online sales.