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.