Click & Collect – the customer reality

Click & collect is the potential saviour of the high street store. Or so many multi-channel retailers would like to think. Some even appear to have fully convinced themselves that this is the case.

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Saviour of the high street supposedly

While such a service undoubtedly adds great value to some stores, those retailers with many hundreds of outlets will not be able to justify their full estates solely on the back of the value of providing a click & collect service from these units.

That argument aside, just how did click & collect stack up for Retail Insider this Christmas. Three orders were placed. Thankfully there were no disasters but it did highlight some of the deficiencies in the way retailers are implementing this increasingly popular service.

Waitrose

A Playmobil swimming pool was ordered for collection from the Waitrose store in Crouch End, north London. It was due to arrive by 1pm on December 21 but shortly before this time a text and email arrived apologising for a delay. Thirty minutes later another text/email arrived to confirm the goods’ availability.

All good to this point but once at the store a 15 minute wait ensued while they looked for the item. Thankfully the store had a designated waiting area for click & collect. However, one problem was that some customers seemed to forget what they’d ordered and realised they could not physically carry their ordered goods home when presented with the evidence of their shopping largesse.

Asda

From Asda an order for various girls’ leggings was made. A text and email arrived to confirm the goods were awaiting collection at the store in Tottenham from December 23. Collecting the items on December 24 was pretty painless as there was only a very short queue but this could have been an issue if there had been more people waiting as the click & collect collection point seemed very much shoe-horned into the store – squeezed in at the end a line of self-service checkouts.

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Free, but is it worth it?

All click & collect goods were held in a cupboard that looked to be rather disorganised in terms of how the items were stored. Thankfully the leggings were found without any delay.

Tesco

Three Star Wars figures were ordered for collection from the Tesco Express store on Hornsey High Street. Again, it looked like the devoted click & collect area had just been shoved into the store with no designated area – thereby leaving waiting customers to mill around while the store assistants looked for the ordered items. We encountered a wait of over 15 minutes.

Service was rather odd as the person handling the order handed over one box and asked if that was all. Such was the size of the box my assumption was that the three figures were contained in this one box.

On opening the packaging outside the store there was only one Star Wars figure inside. Returning to the shop, the assistant expressed surprise that I had not taken the other two boxes – even though they had seen the order numbers on them were the same!

The size of the boxes for very small and light items was ludicrous. Not only was it environmentally suspect but such over-large packaging must consume lots of space in the store.

Even though my order was easily portable the size of the packaging would have made it tough to carry – thereby negatively affecting the click & collect experience for many customers.

Conclusion

In this very limited experiment it seems click & collect is still very much an appendage for retailers. Although it is clearly working in principle there are still plenty of wrinkles to iron out before customers receive an experience that is as convenient as retailers keep telling them that click & collect is. If it is the saviour for high street stores  then retailers are not treating it with much care.

Despite the niggles the employees at all three retailers handled their respective situations very well – at an admittedly very busy time of year.