E-commerce meets retail: A guide to click-and-collect and in-store pickup models

5 minute read

The pandemic didn’t create the click-and-collect model, but it sure has accelerated its growth.

Retail and e-commerce gurus believe there’s no going back. Click-and-collect, curbside pickup and its older sibling buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) are here to stay.  Even after the masks come off, consumers will continue to expect click-and-collect’s unique blend of ease and convenience as a shopping option.

The question is, how can you provide your customers with a seamless omni-channel shopping experience that reflects and reinforces your brand promise?

Survey of changing consumer shopping habits

Canada Post recently commissioned a survey1 to shed more light on how Canadian consumers are adapting during COVID-19 – and, more critically, what they expect from retailers going forward. We’ll be referencing these findings along with industry data throughout this article, but let’s first tackle the basics.

The benefits of click-and-collect

Click-and-collect has plenty to offer both retailers and customers.

Health and safety continue to be the most important reasons to embrace this fulfillment model, at least in the short-term.

Canada Post research revealed that, as a direct result of COVID-19, 35 per cent of shoppers said they used curbside pickup for items available in-store.

But there are other important considerations. Click-and-collect is another opportunity for you to provide an industry-leading customer experience.

Consumers love its immediacy and convenience.

At the same time, click-and-collect is a potential boon for you. According to Harvard Business Review, 49 per cent of customers were likely to buy an additional item when picking up their online order. To put an even finer point on it, stores implementing BOPIS enjoyed 13 per cent more consumer spending in-store.

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Click-and-collect can even save you money, especially if a product’s size and weight make it costly to ship to customers’ homes.

So, what’s the future of click-and-collect once the economy opens up? 30 per cent of shoppers said they’ll use it more than they did before, and 44 per cent claimed they would continue using click-and-collect at the same level.

Providing best-in-class customer experiences

Pandemic or no pandemic, e-commerce leaders never lose sight of their customers. They make it a habit to stay in tune with their changing preferences and needs. So consider click-and-collect as an opportunity to delight your customers – one that can help set you apart from the competition.

There are many considerations as you plan the way forward. The following are a few of our favourites:

Get it right on the inside before you go outside

Before offering click-and-collect (or BOPIS, for that matter), you’ll need to get your house in order first:

  • Does your current POS platform support the integration of your e-commerce and in-store capabilities? The right automated platform provides seamless access to your online orders so that pickups can be easily processed and prepared. In Walmart’s case, automation improved pickup times by 60 per cent, order accuracy by 7 per cent and likelihood for impulse purchases by 12 per cent.
  • Do you need to change your workflows and fulfillment model? For example, will you prioritize BOPIS orders over those made in-store or online for delivery?
  • Where will you fulfill online orders? Do you intend to ship them from a warehouse to a specific store location, or fulfill them from a specific store’s existing stock?
  • Have you optimized your store fronts and create dedicated lanes or additional space for click-and-collect pickups?
  • Will you be asking your customer to pay for their purchase online, or when product is picked up at your retail location? (By the way, contactless payment these days isn’t a nice-to-have – it’s necessary!)
  • Did you train employees on click-and-collect procedures, such as packaging and contactless payment? Are you keeping them up to date on changing health and safety standards?
  • Are you considering the maximum number of orders per hour or day? Obviously, you’ll want to avoid a shortage of employees, and a backlog of orders.

Clearly outline the click-and-collect process to customers

As with any new service launch to your consumers, clarity of message goes a long way.

Both Sporting Life and Michaels keep it simple, clear and concise. Both brands distilled their click-and-collect offering to three easy-to-understand steps. They’re not overloading consumers with information or endless ‘what-if’ scenarios. To help information seekers, both brands offer a list of FAQs.

Communicating your click-and-collect and BOPIS options should be present in all of your consumer-facing marketing efforts, not just on your website. Consider showcasing these delivery options in emails, direct mail, advertising, point-of-purchase, receipts and so on.

Sporting Life click-and-collect web page.

Sporting Life reassures shoppers with a simple and easy approach to click-and-collect.

Why limit click-and-collect to your retail locations?

There are now several third-party options that can serve as consumer pickup centres for your products, including Canada Post locations, secure lockers, convenience stores and more.

And if they’re found even closer to your customers’ homes or places of work, all the better.

Click-and-collect should be considered part of a complete omni-channel customer experience. It’s proof that your business is customer-centric.

Alice Lafferty

General Manager, Domestic Parcels and E-commerce

Canada Post

Enable customers to check in-store product availability

An online product availability tracker, preferably one that works in real-time, gives consumers the ability to check product availability at a nearby store before they checkout. Again, it’s about offering an exceptional customer experience that respects their time and effort. The right e-commerce platform will help make this choice a lot easier to offer your customers.

Manage expectations for timing

Canadian consumers will forgive an at-home delivery that’s arrived a little late. They won’t if they make the drive to your store and their order isn’t ready.

Make it clear when and where the order can be picked up. Promise a maximum pickup window, and stick to it. You can help manage expectations still further by staying in touch with consumers beforehand through text or email messages.

Add a little wow to the pickup experience

On-time pickup is hands-down the number one expectation of all customers. Want to further differentiate your brand from the others?

Supply clear signage directing your customers to their pickup location. That alone increases the likelihood of using the service again by 14 per cent!

If customers have to pick up orders from a service desk, keeping an employee in front of them during the process improves overall satisfaction of BOPIS by 23 per cent, and increases the likelihood of buying additional items by 24 per cent.

Don’t forget a little surprise-and-delight while you’re at it. Add a personal thank you note with the order, or an exclusive discount on their next purchase. Even better? Ask them for feedback on their click-and-collect experience. It’s free intel you can action to improve the customer experience.

Making the best of returns

Returns are a headache at the best of times. Here’s the thing: most consumers no longer distinguish between your retail locations and your e-commerce site. To them, one is just an extension of the other. They may want the freedom to return items by mail, or at the specific store where they made the purchase, or at another store location. In short, tell them precisely how returns work to avoid disappointment and frustration.

Click-and-collect will continue to redefine the industry – and your customers’ expectations

Whether you’re introducing click-and-collect to your customers, or just tweaking your existing offering, book a complimentary consultation with a Canada Post representative today. They can offer you insights, best practices and advice that can make all the difference to your success.

1 Canada Post. 2020 Spring Survey, 20-208, June 2020.

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