Mark BigleyMark BigleyOctober 30, 2017


Click & Collect has advanced rapidly to become an essential service for retailers, and its popularity shows no sign of slowing.

Analysis by Research and Markets forecasts UK growth of 64 percent between 2016 and 2021, as increasingly time-poor consumers look for maximum shopping convenience.

Reports suggest that although there have been improvements in Click & Collect performance – with the number of UK shoppers experiencing an issue with the service down from 47 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2017 – UK retailers still have huge room for improvement.

There is real pressure to ensure that any Click & Collect service is robust and efficient.  Whilst this sounds obvious on paper, the harsh reality is that many retailers will rarely have the in-house capacity and expertise to ensure that services are optimised and – importantly – regularly reviewed to maximise the opportunities afforded by the evolving postal distribution landscape.

The consequences of failure are serious. If an e-commerce delivery goes wrong, the consumer will often direct blame towards the retailer’s chosen delivery partner.

However, if in-store pick-up isn’t 100 percent correct, consumer wrath will be directed squarely at the retail brand – often within in earshot of other customers.

Retailers offering Click & Collect as an option do so in a bid to provide consumers with more choice, to keep pace with competitors and to drive new revenue streams from customers stepping foot in the store.

Click & Collect presents a complex set of challenges to retailers – from updating stock inventories to creating defined areas within store for collection, to ensuring the service remains consistent across mobile channels. Then comes the physical delivery of items from warehouse to store.

Often, retailers are working with standard delivery partners, whose vehicles carry parcels intended for a number of locations and recipients.

This can lead to major competition amongst those recipients for delivery-time accuracy. Whose delivery should take priority?

If, due to the sheer volume of deliveries and locations, the delivery partner is unable to precisely confirm delivery time windows, the retailer is placed at a serious disadvantage.

In-store staff will be unable to plan shifts around the receipt and safe storage of deliveries. and as a result, the safeguard of delivered items may be compromised.

Equally, customers may arrive at a store only to be told their item has not arrived as promised, with the inevitable risk to brand reputation that such a scenario presents.

We know from talking to retailers that many are signing up to 99.5 percent Service Level Agreements. On paper, this sounds fairly robust but the harsh reality is that retailers cannot fail – especially with Click & Collect. Any Service Level Agreement has to be 100 percent simply because the fall-out from any failure can be quickly and devastatingly broadcast across social media.

Forward-thinking retailers are beginning to accept this mindset. These leaders are investigating ways of transforming the Click & Collect experience so the convenience promised by such a service is actually realised – all of the time – and at a manageable cost.

The answer lies in partnering with bespoke delivery providers. Such partners have the agility to work on a smaller, more tailored scale, developing services with a few retailers rather than attempting to implement a one-size-fits all solution.

So, two or three retailers may develop a partnership whereby one e-commerce partner’s Click & Collect packages are delivered to another retailer’s physical location. The delivery partner is able to be far more precise in terms of delivery times and the overall quality of the service improves. And the more the service is used, the more cost-effective it becomes.

The challenge for retailers is to offer consumers choice whilst ensuring that such choice does not break the bank. Click & Collect has evolved to become an essential option for consumers – and its rise as a service is predicted to continue into the next decade.

At present, too many e-commerce businesses are offering Click & Collect as an option without truly grasping the complexities around its provision. In today’s competitive climate there is simply no room for error. Customers experiencing poor service will disappear overnight, and will often amplify their grievances on social media.

Pioneering firms are understanding that, by adding quality to convenience, they can set themselves apart from competitors. These firms also understand that the expertise to transform fulfilment services will not necessarily reside in-house.

Partnerships are being formed with delivery experts – and with other like-minded retailers – in order to transform Click & Collect from a ‘nice to have’ into a slick, efficient, and cost-effective service 100 percent of the time.

Mark BigleyMark BigleyOctober 13, 2017


The power is in the hands of the consumer. Busy lifestyles, combined with today’s always-on, digitally connected world, have resulted in a market where convenience is king. This is nowhere more apparent than in the ever-evolving ecommerce arena.

The ease of mobile browsing and one-click buying is all well and good, but this functionality counts for nothing if sellers are simply unable to get purchases to the consumer in a way that works. For retailers, the challenge is to ensure that back-office fulfilment processes have the capability to deliver on customer expectations.

What works?

It is this question of ‘what works?’ that is preoccupying retailers.  What does convenience really mean? Recent developments have seen major ecommerce players push the boundaries in terms of service-level options. Items can arrive mere hours after they have been ordered, delivered to the home 24/7 at specific time-slots, or to convenient pick-up points. Innovations such as repeat-order buttons and drone delivery are being introduced as every effort is made to continually advance delivery functionality.

The danger for smaller players lies in trying to keep pace with these developments without truly understanding the wishes of their customers and prospects. Innovation grabs the headlines, but dig below the surface and consumers are not as easy to predict.

A recent report from Ofcom reveals that, when it comes to delivery, “price is the consumer’s main concern”, with more than 50% of online shoppers not completing orders online because “delivery charges were too high”. Other studies back up this claim, suggesting that consumers value free, or cheap, delivery over fast service.

Fitting free into the mix

In a crowded market, customers are becoming used to the idea of differentiating by delivery options, quickly dismissing those providers that don’t offer the required service. Of course, the difficulty for retailers is that the cost of offering free delivery as an option must be absorbed by the business. Can a fulfilment rethink make such an option viable? In a lot of cases, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

Many ecommerce businesses have taken what they believe to be a belt-and-braces approach to fulfilment, where customers are given the option to track orders from point of purchase every step of the way until the item is received. Having this level of service as an option can be valuable, but the onus is on retailers to understand why – and for whom – tracking is important. Should this level of service really be offered against lower value items? Can the same level of assurance and satisfaction be given to the customer via a free delivery option?

In fact, it is rarely a case of either/or. Customers value delivery choice, and retailers can get better at influencing customer decisions and at channeling the right purchases to the most effective delivery channels.

Forward-thinking ecommerce businesses are not viewing fulfilment and delivery in isolation from the rest of the business. These companies recognize the strategic influence that the free delivery model can have around on-boarding new customers, rewarding repeat purchasers and incentivizing lapsed buyers.

Customer analysis is showing that free is an essential element of the delivery mix. Any ecommerce businesses not currently offering free as an option should review their delivery strategies. How this cost is absorbed will vary from business to business but current fulfilment strategies are a good place to start. Businesses must assess whether delivery options really fit with the profile and expectations of buyers and must consider whether prospects are being deterred because of current delivery choices.

Certainly, ecommerce fulfilment is an increasingly complex arena. Businesses may simply not have the capacity internally to review processes and keep up-to-speed with market developments.  This is why many are choosing to partner with third-party experts who can not only suggest the right delivery profile for the business but can ensure that this profile adapts with changing consumer demands.

Ultimately, any business neglecting to refresh its delivery approach on a consistent basis will quickly find itself falling behind more nimble competitors. Including free delivery as an option may result in some short-term challenges. But the long-term benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and share of wallet will make the effort worthwhile.

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