Put To The Test, U.K. Retailers Suffer Merged-Channel Hiccups

Written by Retail Week
June 27th, 2012

Editor’s Note: Buy-online-pick-up-in-store—along with its opposite cousin—is arguably the most popular merged-channel element. But it’s also the most complex, with the greatest number of potential points of failure. How likely is some type of failure? Our media partner, Retail Week, decided to find out, at least as far as the most important chains in the U.K. go.

Most fared well, with a few exceptions. Coast’s “service was a failure, and defied the objective of convenient click-and-collect.” For Marks & Spencer, “a faster turnaround would be welcome.” Homebase shoppers find that “the tight deadline for pick-up and limited availability is a drawback.” ASOS’s delivered “confusing delivery selection process during online checkout.” And Very suffered from poor customer service. These lessons learned certainly apply to the U.S., and this report offers an opportunity to avoid the hiccups suffered by our European counterparts.

Multichannel delivery is at the top of the agenda for many retailers, as they try to supply the ‘any product, anywhere, anytime’ service that customers increasingly demand and expect.

The click-and-collect model of delivery has become a key part of this approach, both for bricks-and-mortar retailers and online pure-plays. It promises customers the convenience of browsing and purchasing online and picking up items at their leisure at locations of their choice.

However, with the increasing sophistication and flexibility of delivery, making the most of collect-in-store is also a challenge. Aurora Fashions, for example, is looking to replace its ‘reserve online, collect in store’ service with a ‘pay and collect’ alternative that leverages the success of its new Anywhere Everywhere stock management system and delivery options.

So how convenient are retailers’ click-and-collect services? Retail Week tested a selection, in an unscientific trial, following the purchase of one item from order to pick-up.

John Lewis offers a free service that promises collection at a chosen shop from 2pm the following day, if orders are placed before 7pm. The addition of Waitrose stores to the line-up of collection locations last August boosted the service: It offers more than 230 pick-up points, according to its Web site.

User experience: The service featured prominently on the homepage alongside other John Lewis appeals such as ‘Never knowingly undersold.’ Selection during checkout was easy.

Communication: An instant E-mail confirmed the order and collection details and included clear instructions and maps showing how and where to pick up. Notification of dispatch arrived within the estimated time, and a text message on the day confirmed that the parcel was ready for collection.

Pick-up: Picking up home furnishings from behind the fruit-and-veg aisle at the local Waitrose supermarket might be a bit counter-intuitive, but prompt customer service made the process speedy, without the need to queue at the tills.

Verdict: Throughout the buying process the click-and-collect option was clearly highlighted, with logos and instructions making selection easy. The number of participating stores made this service particularly attractive. The speed of the delivery to store, and Waitrose opening hours of 7am to 10pm on weekdays, as well as weekend opening, offered great flexibility.

Boots’ ‘order online and collect in store’ is available on most items across 2,400 stores, according to its Web site, but requires a minimum spend of £20 for the service to be free. If you spend under £20 it costs £1.95. An order is usually available in three to five working days, and will be held for 14 days after the delivery date.

User experience: The ‘collect in store’ option was highlighted during the product search process. The store search found three locations within two miles, the closest 1.25 miles away.

Communication: An order acknowledgement E-mail arrived immediately, although a promised text message confirmation never arrived. Notification of dispatch was within a day, but there was no follow-up confirmation of delivery, making pick-up a bit of a lottery.

Pick-up: The local Boots pharmacy had strict opening hours, with no service on bank holidays, so pick up choices were slightly limited. Nonetheless, the process went without a hitch.

Verdict: The order arrived at the chosen store earlier than expected, making the service even more convenient than advertised. Communication could be improved to make pick-up opportunities more obvious, and the £20 minimum spend might put some off.

The fashion retailer prides itself on its multichannel fulfillment, offering customers many delivery options, including ‘reserve and collect.’ This service is available on most items in the U.K. and Ireland, in standalone stores only, excluding concessions in department stores.

User experience: The service was clearly highlighted on product pages, while the store search generated three options for the selected postcode. The closest store, 1.86 miles away, wasn’t available, so delivery was to the busy Regent Street store, 2.89 miles away.

Communication: After prompt E-mail acknowledgement of the order, communication ceased. According to the Web site: “Clicking on the reserve button will notify the store of your request and they will locate your order. You’ll receive an availability confirmation shortly to let you know your order is ready for collection.” That confirmation never arrived. Contact with customer service a week later resulted in a standard response promising an investigation. Finally, two weeks later and after more pestering, the item was ready for collection.

Pick-up: The item arrived too late for the event it was ordered for, so wasn’t picked up.

Verdict: This service was a failure, and defied the objective of convenient click-and-collect. Possibly a one-off blip, it was nonetheless surprising that it went so wrong.


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