What do the new Massimo Dutti flagship store in Munich, the electronics retailer MediaMarkt, the garden centre chain Dehner and the furniture manufacturer IKEA have in common? They all allow their customers to order the products they want online and then collect in person from a nearby store. The much-vaunted click-and-collect concept is being put forward as a remedy for the migration of customers away from bricks-and-mortar outlets.
The evidence is mounting that this combination opens up opportunities for companies as the concept is very attractive to customers: according to a survey commissioned by the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bevh), more than three-quarters of all respondents have used click and collect to make at least one purchase in the last 12 months. What’s more, 21 per cent have used this method to buy products from the home furnishings segment, which includes furniture, other homeware products and soft furnishings.
Different varieties of click and collect
So is it time to start rejoicing? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that because the concept comes in different forms: click and reserve allows consumers to secure products without buying them yet. They make their final decision in store. With buy and collect, customers make a purchase online and then pick up the items. So what matters for consumers when they combine the online and offline worlds? The bevh survey mentioned above sums up the most important motivators: avoiding delivery charges and the flexibility that collection offers, as well as the option to return items and make other purchases when collecting in store. Combining these advantages generates opportunities for businesses, including chances to make personal contact. Consumers who check out product ranges from the comfort of their sofas and (hopefully) place an order right away can then enjoy the haptic experience in the store.
What is crucial for businesses?
Experts are warning that click and collect won’t stop online shopping – it will merely complement it. All providers have to ask themselves the following questions: what can I achieve, and what results do I want to see? The possible answers range from improved customer service to targeting new customer groups and increased sales. But setting up a functioning click-and-collect system consumes resources – financially and organisationally. Ultimately, it comes down to how quickly the items ordered can be ready for collection at the right location, such as the local branch. Anyone who orders online now doesn’t want to wait days to collect their order. Inventory management systems have to be designed to cope with this. And a streamlined process is needed to guide customers from the first click to picking up their products. There are many pitfalls along the way, from difficulties paying in the online store to frustration about additional costs and collection problems – especially if the customer has to queue at the checkout, for instance.
In brief: no cure-all
Based on initial experiences, it seems that the option to reserve products online has the most potential for furniture retailers. Setting up exclusive collection points opens up opportunities – it might not be possible to generate additional sales there, but companies can offer a great service.
To sum up, click and collect is not a cure-all. But it does offer businesses additional opportunities in an increasingly complex commercial environment.