Buy online, collect in store services are already so popular in the UK that most large retailers offer it, while it’s set to grow in the US.
But what makes a great customer experience? What does the ideal collect in store service look like?
Here are a few ideas…
1. Raise awareness of the service
It’s no use offering click and collect if customers are unaware that you do it.
In a market where it’s already popular (41% of UK and 19% of US shoppers used such services last year) it can be a sales driver, or where it’s less well-known, there’s a need to raise awareness.
This can be done in a number of ways…
On outdoor ads, TV and in stores
Mentioning in store pickup options in marketing materials helps to raise awareness. It’s also worth promoting it in stores.
On the homepage and landing pages
Make visitors to the site aware of the service with messaging on landing pages and around the site.
Staples also shows which products are available for in store pick-up in site search results and on category pages.
This saves customers from the frustration of heading to product pages only to find that items cannot be collected in store.
On product pages and during checkout
Collect in store options should be shown where customers are making purchase decisions, as the availability can be the deciding factor.
Here, Office Depot places this information clearly above the call to action.
2. Explain the process
Let people know how it works. Deal with any concerns that may have.
Not everyone is familiar with click and collect, while others may not know how the full process works.
Office Depot deals with this well, providing a step by step guide, as well as a video and FAQs on the topic.
3. Let customers check store stock
This is a key feature, which can save customers wasted time.
Don’t let them add products to their shopping carts only to find during checkout that stock is unavailable.
Allowing customers to search from product pages means that customers can quickly identify local stores stocking the product before ordering.
Here’s a good example from Staples. Customers are shown the saved location, but can also search other areas. It’s also useful to show a range of stores to provide more choice.
4. Think about repeat customers
To make it easier for regular users, allow them to select a store that they can use quickly for future orders.
Of course, customers may sometimes want to use a different store for pick up, so it’s important to provide options to search alternative locations.
5. Map usability
It’s also helpful to show available stores for collection on a map so the user can decide on the most convenient location.
Users should also be able to click on the pins for further information on opening hours, and to select the store straight from this screen.
6. Make it mobile
Don’t forget the benefits of click and collect for attracting mobile users (and showroomers).
The want/need it now mentality is powerful, and retailers can take advantage of this by making it easy for mobile shoppers to reserve items for quick collection.
Here, Schuch works well on mobile, and offers fast collection for many products.
7. What’s best? Pay online or in store?
We can see in the screenshot above that Schuh offers a choice of methods, customers can either pay online before collecting in store, or reserve items and pay when they are collected.
There are pros and cons here:
- Pay online. This ensures that retailers’ time and money isn’t wasted by people reserving and failing to collect items which could have been sold to another customer, or which have to be shipped to store.
- Pay in store. The big advantage here is the ease of the online transaction. If all customers have to do is select a store then there’s no need to enter any payment details, making the process much smoother.
8. Speed of collection
If customers want an item fast, then a speedy collect in store service provides an advantage over competitors.
Staples, for example, has a one-hour pickup service, which is as fast as most services. UK retailer Schuh can do this in 20 minutes when items are already in stock.
This depends on the ability to fulfil orders from in store stock, so it does mean that retailers need the systems in place to enable a real-time view of stock levels.
This is be a key area of differentiation in future, so retailers should aim for the fastest possible collection times.
9. Avoid restrictions
Lowe’s has a service, but it’s limited to store opening hours and unavailable for all products.
It’s still useful, but will be frustrating for lots of customers too.
10. Cater for click and collect preferences
If customers want to use in store collection options, then make it easy for them to find items without having to work too hard.
On many sites that advertise buy online, in store pickup options, only a fraction of items are available for collection.
This means that you can select an item from the product page, only to find that it’s only available for shipping to a home address.
B&Q avoids this issue by providing a filtering option by which users can see only those products which can be collected in store.
11. Provide alternative pick up options
It’s not just about allowing customers to collect items in store, though that may well be the most common customer preference.
It’s mainly about convenience, and that can mean allowing customers to collect from a suitable location. That may be a local store, or perhaps a locker placed at a train station where the customer can collect items on the journey home.
This also provides options for the online-only retailers to offer in store collection, negating a key advantage that mutichannel retailers have.
For the brick and mortar retailers, they would normally prefer to have customers come into stores for collection, where they may purchase other items, but it’s really all about providing choice for customers.
12. Provide text alerts when items are available
Text alerts are useful for customers to remind them about orders. It also helps to provide a collection reference to use when customers reach the store.
The reminder about required ID is also useful. Another addition would be to tell customers where in store they can collect items. For a department store like John Lewis, it may not be immediately obvious.
13. Make it clear what customers need to bring into store
This email from House of Fraser after a buy and collect order has been made is a great example of best practice.
First of all, it tells me where in store I need to go to collect my order. The map helps, and saves me the time I may have spent looking for the collection desk.
Further down the same email, the ID requirements are laid out clearly, as well as what to do if you want someone else to collect an order.
14. Don’t charge for click and collect
Most retailers don’t charge when customers reserve for in store collection, though UK retailer John Lewis recently introduced a £2 charge for orders under £30, citing the costs of shipping to stores.
In this specific case, you could argue that this is a useful method of increasing average order values, but I think the principle of providing the service free of charge provides an advantage over competitors.
It can also be argued that a customer collecting items in store could be more valuable due to the potential for cross-selling, while the ability to view and even try on products before leaving the store can also reduce returns rates.
15. Don’t overlook the in store experience
You’ve created a great website with a smooth reserve or buy process for the customer. They’ve found the product they want at a price they’re happy with. Let’s not spoil that with a less than satisfactory in store experience.
I’ve experienced a range of standards when collecting items. For example, a local supermarket made me wait for 15 minutes while a member of staff searched the warehouse, came back to ask a colleague, before finally locating my order.
In others, it’s smooth. A dedicated collection point, a short wait and the offer to try out items before leaving the store.
This experience matters, In the first example, I decided not to use that service again, in the second I’ve placed many orders.
Here are a few points to consider:
- A dedicated collection desk. In the supermarket example I mentioned, the staff had to handle customer service enquiries, returns, order collection and even tobacco sales at the same time. Do you want your customers collecting items while another complains about a previous purchase?
- Placement of the collection point. Make it easy to find, even at busy times. This means clear signage and the space for customers to queue without feeling hassled.
- Keep queues down. If customers feel they have to wait to long, that will leave a poor impression. Ensure staffing levels match the number of orders.
- Making sure opening times are clearly communicated.
- Organisation. Make sure deliveries are clearly labelled and organised so that customers don’t have to wait too long.
- Offer customers the chance to try items. When collecting items in Schuh, staff will offer you the opportunity to try before you leave. This reduces returns and provides a chance for customers to find a suitable pair of shoes before leaving.
Ensure that the in store experience works and customers will want to use it again. They’ll also leave with a positive impression of your brand.
16. Don’t overlook the locker / collection point experience either
It’s important that this works well too. I’ll refer you to this excellent post from Ben Logan which looks in detail at the Amazon locker experience.
This one was placed in a shopping centre near the public toilets. Perhaps not the best location.
Customers already demand more in terms of choice when buying online. Collect in store services provide one more option which can convince customers to make a purchase.
It’s not enough just to offer it, the aim should be to do it well, and that is all about providing the best possible customer experience.
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