Multichannel retail: collection and return practicalities of Click and Collect


The enormous success of click and collect speaks for itself. While the service has its roots in pure play online retail, more and more store retailers are embracing the click and collect phenomena in order to compete effectively in the multichannel retail arena.

In an ideal world, the implementation of collection and return practicalities would constitute an integral part of the multichannel retail store planning and design process - click and collect is much more than an afterthought, a ‘one counter solution' or an ill thought out ‘add-on'. However, the challenge is, of course, that many stores were designed before the huge growth in multichannel retail and click and collect. While we would always recommend that click and collect facilities form a part of the initial design or redesign process, there are still options available to facilitate the smooth operation of a professionally implemented click and collect service within the existing store design:

Implement clear signage

Customers on a ‘collect' or ‘return' shopping mission are usually single-minded in their approach. They are there for a purpose and they would like to achieve this purpose as quickly and as easily as possible before they will consider anything else. Clear, prominent way-finding signage demonstrates the emphasis placed on click and collect and makes it easy for customers to identify where they need to go. As Craig Phillipson, Shopworks Managing Director puts it: "we often find that the sooner shoppers can be reassured that their  primary shopping mission will be easy to fulfil, the more they are likely to consider expanding their browsing consideration". Tesco, for example, highlights its collection point near the main entrance using clear, bright signage to attract attention.

Collection and return strategy

Those who respond, rather than react to, the era of click and collect are in the best place to formulate a successful strategy based on carefully thought out ideas and designs. Although click and collect must always be viewed as more than a ‘tag on' service, with careful consideration  it is possible to make use of existing facilities to enable the best, most streamlined system possible, like Asda, which uses existing service counters at the rear of its stores to double up as collection points. The beauty of this strategy is that it compels customers to view a range of merchandise on their journey through the store, so promoting the potential for impulse buys.

On the other hand, implementing a separate collection counter, like House of Fraser which has a separate counter for purchases made by the website, can avoid any confusion and prevent queues at other service areas. 

External options are also possible, particularly now that planning permission for the construction of click and collect facilities will soon be a thing of the past. For example, retailers such as Selfridge's have click and collect services set away from the store which also offer the convenience of a drive-through option. However, bear in mind that while this presents an attractive solution for customers and potentially boosts customer loyalty, it does of course reduce footfall in-store, eliminating browsing opportunities and exposure to other merchandise.

Retail counter design

The design of the collection and returns counter needs careful consideration in order to ensure a completely streamlined service. Adequate, well planned space is required in order for employees to be able to store parcels tidily and in a systematic manner for quick and easy retrieval when the customer arrives.

Waitrose has mastered the issue, with a retrieval system based on the customer's order number and a transition system whereby parcels are moved to the collection counter 15 minutes before the identified availability time, freeing up back of house storage space.

Importantly, any system needs to take into account changes in employee personnel during the day - the system will fall down if it relies on the same employee/s always being present.

Ask us to help you optimise your store for click and collect. Contact us on +44 (0)1442 875666 or contact us by email.

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