Why more retailers should be offering buy online, collect in store in 2016

According to Internet Retailer, Kate Spade is planning to introduce a buy online, collect in store (BOPS) service this year.

It’s been popular in the UK for some time, but less so in the US. So why should retailers offer this?

Buy online, collect in store. What is it?

Let’s explain what we mean, as there are various different terms for this service, including:

  • Buy online, collect in store.
  • Click and collect.
  • Check and reserve.
  • Buy and collect.
  • In-store pickup.

Essentially, it means ordering an item online before collecting it at a local store.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a store either, as people can now collect items from other stores, gas stations, and at locations such as train stations or via lockers placed at convenient locations.


I should also note that this is distinct from buy online, ship from store. Kate Spade successfully offered this, which has led to the coming introduction of a collect in store service.

In this case, Kate Spade was shipping online orders from local store stock, using the store as a warehouse.

It meant that customers could receive orders more quickly and saved money on delivering from a central location.

Advantages of collect in store

The service has many advantages for retailers as they attempt to provide a competitive offering online.

There has been public demand for the service, and the use has grown rapidly over the past few years.

Here are a few reasons to offer it:

Customers want it

Customers have become more demanding when it comes to ecommerce shipping options.

It’s no longer enough just to offer a single option, customers want choice.

This includes faster, next day delivery options – customers are often prepared to pay a premium for this.

macys shipping

In addition, customers will often look for nominated days for delivery, Sunday delivery, or one or two hour time slots so they don’t need to wait in all day.

And then there’s the ability to collect in store. It can be faster than other methods, and is often more convenient for customers.

It works well around Christmas / holiday shopping seasons

According to UK stats, 41% of shoppers used click and collect in 2015.

The holiday season was a big part of this, for a number of reasons.

People worry whether retailers will ship in time for Christmas Day.

Factors such as higher than usual order volumes and bad weather can affect shipping times, and people don’t want to risk seeing the faces of their children when the Lego Death Star fails to arrive on time.

This is when collect in store works well. It allows retailers to sell online closer to Christmas, as they can fulfil orders from store stock. 

Also, it can be a real pain to shop around peak times like Christmas and Black Friday, struggling through crowds to browse for presents. Far better to have items ready to collect so you can get in and out of stores more quickly.

crowded stores

It provides an advantage for multichannel retailers

If retailers have a store network, then collect in store services allow them to take advantage of the brick and mortar presence.

Encouraging customers to collect in store can lead to incremental purchases as people come to collect orders and see other items that interest them.

If you offer a great in-store experience, this personal touch can improve the customer’s perception of the brand in a way that online cannot always do.

It still works for pure-plays

I’m not contradicting my previous point, as stores do still offer an advantage in terms of experience and extra sales.

Online-only retailers can collect orders at locations such as train stations and third party stores via lockers.

This allows them to offer the convenience and flexibility that customers increasingly demand.


It’s great for mobile shoppers

Showrooming is a thing, and it has threatened to take sales away from bricks and mortar retailers to online.

However, it also provides an opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to take sales from other offline competitors.

For instance, if may check the price of a camera I’ve seen in one store online, and find another store less than a mile away that has the same product at a better price.

If they offer click and collect and I want that camera fast, then I can reserve it and collect it the same day.

Why has it been slower to take off in the US?

There is a disparity between the adoption of click and collect services in the US and UK.

  • In the UK, it has proved to be very popular, with 41% of UK online shoppers using it in 2015. 
  • However, an Accenture’s  study on U.S. shopping behavior found that 19% of U.S. consumers use click-and-collect services.
  • The demand seems to be there though. A UPS survey found that 44% of consumers would be more likely to shop at a retailer if they could buy online and pick up in-store.

More US retailers will be offering collect in store services, and those that do so well will gain an advantage over their competitors.

There are organizational issues which need to be dealt with before retailers can offer an effective clicm and collect service. Retailers need a clear view of stock availability throughout the company, including store stock.

There are also issues around where sales are attributed. If customers order online and go into the store, who gets the credit?

I think there are a couple of reasons why adoption has been quicker in the UK than US.

One is geography. The sheer size of the US means customers living outside of major cities may have to travel further to collect in store. In such cases, it may be easier to simply wait for delivery.

Another is that Argos, which pioneered click and collect in the UK was previously a catalogue retailer.

Its stores existed for people to collect catalogue orders, and the systems were already in place to offer click and collect – knowing which items were in stock in each store for one thing.

Queuing in Argos

Other UK retailers have since offered store collection, but have found to harder thanks to the legacy systems which weren’t set up for this.

There is still a divide between those who use store stock to fulfil orders, and those which need to deliver to stores before customers can collect. The former are able to offer faster pick-up, and therefore have an advantage.

As more US retailers begin to offer this service, these organizational issues need to be overcome, while the in-store customer experience, and simply building awareness of BOPS options shouldn’t be overlooked.

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