The popularity of click and collect as a purchase route has significantly increased over the past two years, running parallel with a marked uplift in the number of retailers adopting it, which now stands at 50% of the market. The 2014 relaxation of planning laws has made it easier for retailers to incorporate click and collect services into existing sites.
Supplier input is crucial
As with any new service, a number of tweaks need to be made to the click and collect model in order to make the process as seamless as possible for customers. This includes the structure of the service and how it is delivered, as well as maximising the support that suppliers can offer.
One example of this is through suppliers helping to guarantee stock levels meet demand. There are constant pressures on retailers, suppliers and logistics providers to shorten delivery times and better guarantee the availability of products through all routes to purchase. This is where strong relationships between retailers and their suppliers can pay dividends, as they allow for the implementation of checks and controls to better guarantee availability. For example, a monitoring system that alerts suppliers when stock is running low, allowing replenishments to be made in good time.
This means that from the customer’s perspective, service levels remain uninterrupted and the sole aim of click and collect – to create convenience for the customer– is not compromised. The approach also contributes to a smooth, multi-channel experience where customers expect the same level of availability and service, regardless of which route to purchase they are using.
The need for supplier consultancy
As well as being highly adaptable, suppliers should seek to understand the needs and behavioural trends of retailers’ customer groups. They should then consult with them directly to ensure maximum value is added. One area where suppliers can add value is through advising on how to drive interest in click and collect among the business customers of retailers. While it is vital that retailers meet the needs of consumers, the regularity with which business customers order means it is even more important that services are as slick, hassle free and convenient as possible.
Creating a business to business (B2B) click and collect function is less about making structural changes to the service itself, but rather shoring up the existing operation to make sure it is as ‘business customer ready’ as possible. The click and collect process is already well aligned with the needs of businesses as it has the capacity to facilitate larger orders. However, there is much more that can be done to ensure that service delivery is right first time and suppliers need to be on hand to support this. As well as closely monitoring the stock dynamics of retail customers and making replenishments in good time, suppliers are well positioned to anticipate the items that are more likely to be ordered via click and collect by business customers. This is where suppliers can provide essential consultancy to retailers about the product lines to make available via click and collect and how to manage a larger inventory of stock than usual.
Learn from others
Behavioural traits also act as a guide for retailers in the way that they improve the nature of the service. For example, while consumers can often be creatures of habit, business customers are far more fickle and will think nothing of using a different retailer if the service fails to meet their needs. This is where more forward-thinking suppliers can help. Many suppliers only deal with corporate orders on a wholesale basis so, for this reason, they are in an ideal position to advise their retail clients on how to attract and, crucially, retain business customers.
While awareness of click and collect is widespread, there is still much that retailers can do to encourage increased usage, not least among potential B2B users of the service. Supplier support is an essential component of the function’s day-to-day running, but some may be able to provide advice and consultancy that goes beyond this, in a bid to attract and retain more B2B customers.
Nigel Crunden, business specialist at Office Depot