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Comment: Rising to the click & collect challenge

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With retailers such as New Look announcing that it will be a significant driver of sales within the next three years, click & collect is growing at an unprecedented rate.

And it is not only the retailers themselves that are driving this growth – customers really want it too, with a recent survey from Postcode Anywhere revealing that more than half of online shoppers want to see options to collect in store.

So if everyone is doing it, it must be simple – right?

“Click….”

As we are constantly being reminded, it is no longer good enough to be offering just a click on a website; retailers also need to offer a click on a mobile site. But clicking also refers to customers coming in from the cold street, and clicking on an in-store kiosk (have you seen John Lewis’ area for this?!) or also your store staff accessing a tablet-based CRM system, and doing the clicking for the customers, or even calling the contact centre and asking the agent to click for you. But the biggest problem for retailers is that none of these seem to deliver a strong return on investment.

So why is that?

Much of the past decade has been spent deploying multichannel commerce solutions to extend retailers’ sales capabilities from stores to online and direct channels. In fact, what has emerged from this initial wave of multichannel investments has often been a series of disconnected point solutions that actually make it more difficult to provide shoppers with a consistent experience from one channel to the next.

Whilst multichannel shoppers are acknowledged to spend more than single-channel shoppers, these high value customers also have high expectations. Today’s hyper-connected consumer demands a seamless conversation with their favourite brands, as well as consistent product availability and pricing – whether they are engaging from an iPad, on their smartphone, ordering from a catalogue or shopping in a store location.

Piecing together various point solutions may have allowed retailers to clear the early hurdles of multichannel retailing, but this patchwork strategy is ineffective at engaging consumers across different channels and at integrating the critical data needed to ensure seamless interactions across these channels.

In order to deliver a good shopper experience, retailers are increasingly adopting a platform approach, which provides a single view of their customers, inventory, assortments, promotions, etc. For example, within a single iTunes account, an Apple customer can purchase music on their laptop, apps on their iPhone, books on their iPad and movies through their Apple set-top box. The device the consumer is using, their physical location or what they are purchasing is irrelevant. All of the applications and products Apple offers are connected – from the commerce engine to product libraries to customer history – via the platform.

“….and Collect”

The end of the simple phrase – but behind the scenes, imagine what has to happen, and what systems have to be put in place to deliver the product that was clicked and purchased. This is less difficult when – like Apple – most of your products are digital. However, in order to deliver an actual product, retail operations must be coordinated and systems interfaced. For example…

Product availability

You need to be able to display on the website where and how many of your products are available – is it in the store that your customer wants to collect from, or is it in a nearby store, or any store anywhere in the country (or abroad for cross border retailers)? And what number of products really is available – does availability mean available to promise, or what is actually on the store shelves, or should it also include the one or many distribution centres (DC) run by the retailer? And if it is being fulfilled from a DC, does that DC have the ability to pick a single item, or does it have its systems only set up for case picking?

Shipping

If the customer expects click & deliver to have a delivery cost associated, then they really do not expect for click & collect to hold a premium over the ‘Pick off Shelf’ price. So retailers need to be optimised in terms of their transportation plans, adding a huge amount of complexity, perhaps mixing single deliveries and returns, with other bulk deliveries, other promotional deliveries (and returns), optimising the routes on the fly even as the truck is en route. Perhaps retailers will not only want to consider their own fleet, but also consider using an optimum combination of third party delivery companies as well as their own fleet. Imagine the algorithms required to work that one out, in a real-time mode, with a cross-border retailer!

Physical Collection

What about the store itself? Do you set aside an area of the store, or as happens with New Look, where the products are set aside behind the cash desks? And what happens during Christmas where the store is mad busy, and the queue takes 20 minutes to get through? Perhaps retail guru Mary Portas also needs to encourage retailers to use empty high street locations as click & collect locations, and, as they are not trading through them, come to an agreement on business rates. So by having a successful “….and collect” strategy, many areas of the store are affected.

It is certainly not a simple process.

Retailers need to examine their end-to-end process for click & collect and make sure their service pays for itself, rather than jumping on the bandwagon. They need to consider the number of interactions behind their retail systems, from their e-commerce and m-commerce offering, through to their transportation, warehouse management and in-store inventory management, with workforce management and in-store clienteling all under one technological roof.

John Bailey is Retail Industry Director, EMEA, at RedPrairie

Published on Wednesday 16 November by Editorial Assistant

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