Click and collect – the future for SMB retailers?

Richard Goodley, CEO of retail software specialists Davidson Richards, explains how 'click and collect' services can help the SMB retailer remain competitive.

Keeping up with consumer demand – or, even better, keeping ahead of the game and presenting consumers with the services and products they want before they even realise they want them, is retail 101. Think Harry Gordon Selfridge.

One of the biggest causes of online shopping basket abandonment is delivery, it costs too much or will take too long. Mobile and the web are a given when it comes to the consumers path to purchase –  buying online is standard practice and 78% of shoppers will research online before buying in-store. But, the delivery process is causing strife. 60% of online consumers experiencing problems (Which?) - be this a late or lost parcel, goods left out in the rain or the frustration of the 'sorry you were out' card. Consumers are demanding an alternative and click-and-collect fits the bill.

Method in the madness

The concept click-and-collect sounds somewhat counter-intuitive – the consumer buys online then takes the trip into town to collect the item themselves instead of relaxing at home, waiting for the postman to ring the bell.  So what's going on?

Convenience and control are key with 91% of those using click-and-collect services citing guarantee that the product would be in-store and 87% citing the fact they could choose the time of the collection as reasons why they opted for the service. Busy professionals out at work all day and with limited time to go shopping as well as full-time parents who don't want to drag their children around stores or wait in for a delivery are feeling the benefits.

The 'always on' customer wants to be in control – browsing, buying, trying on, collecting, returning where they want, when they want.

Re-set point for retail

Although 1 in 6 shops are lying empty, with the right strategy retailers – and in particular the smaller retailers, whatever they are selling be it electrical, groceries, clothing or household goods - have the potential to 're-set' themselves and move forward. Introducing a click-and-collect scheme to meet the needs of the new omnichannel and 'omni-access' consumer is something they can easily integrate into their business model.

The big boys are already doing it. John Lewis, the upmarket department store chain, is a pioneer in this arena.  Click-and-collect sales currently represent one-third of its online sales and over 8% of total sales. It has integrated its stores and two-thirds of the partnership's 300 Waitrose branches into its delivery network. It also plans to extend its empire to include thousands of corner shops.

The future for small and medium-sized retailers lies in the cloud

Click-and-collect and in-store 'experiences' are being pioneered by the heavy-weights, leaving many SMB retailers with smaller budgets feeling daunted.

There are cost-effective options available for small and medium sized retailers that allow them to offer an omnichannel experience and click-and-collect services. The answer lies in the cloud.

Analysts agree that the hype surrounding the cloud is now being exchanged for the realisation that it provides very real benefits that could not be enjoyed without it. For small and mid-sized retailers, cloud-based retail solutions are enabling them to implement click-and-collect services, seamless omnichannel strategies and manage all retail operations from anywhere, at any-time.

With a cloud-based solution, capital expenditure involved in set-up, implementation and running costs is dramatically reduced. Cost and hassle of implementation is further reduced if the solution is open and ready to connect to 3rd party business applications and sales channels, meaning there is a reduced need to 'rip out and replace' existing investments.  The nature of the cloud means that all retail operational data can be collated in real-time, allowing all aspects of retail operations, including click-and-collect services, to be managed with precision.

Large scale retailers will throw budget and resources at click-and-collect services. But new technologies are giving SMBs every opportunity to remain competitive and stay successful in their markets on a more restricted budget by making use of the technology available.

Our own cloud-based OpSuite retail solution, which enables retailers with one to one hundred plus outlets to manage their entire retail operations, and integrate a 'click and collect' service, is one such option.

What of bricks and mortar?

SMBs  don't have to go all the way like the seriously upmarket luxury retailer Burberry in its Regent Street based flagship store. Here the floor space exists to offer a consumer experience. It's a place where digital meets physical – customers can try on clothes in front of a mirror that transforms into a screen, watch how the item was made and what it looks like on the catwalk against a backdrop of live music and hologram runway shows.

But the message should not be lost for the SMB. The store is fast becoming an experience that complements the online and mobile one, rather than vice-versa. Customers come in to collect, return, look, try and touch but not necessarily buy. SMBs can offer just that.

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