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In a landmark innovation for UK supermarkets, Asda announced this week that it has launched a Click and Collect service that enables customers to collect an online order they have placed within an hour. It’s a stand out act of digital transformation.
For just £3, shoppers will be able to order anything they need for a speedy pick-up, as long as they order an hour before their store closes. The service launched recently at two stores in Leeds, and will roll out to a further 25 stores in the coming months.
So why is this so revolutionary? Whilst we have had click and collect services for a while now, they usually require a couple of days pre-planning, in order for the supermarket infrastructure to receive, pick and prepare your order.
It means although previous online click and collect services did solve some pain points for customers, it never improved on the convenience of a spontaneous bit of supermarket shopping.
I’m sure those of you who do shop online still know the pain of forgetting a few items off your list, and having to set off to your local store anyway.
The new click and collect service is also great for those last minute ‘what shall we have for tea?’ shops - no more standing in a queue with other disorganised commuters - now you can order just before you leave work, and make a very brief pit stop on the way home. Fuss free.
The service is a poignant example of how retailers are narrowing the gap between online, and brick and mortar experiences.
Certainly, we can safely assume that this is the direction retail will be moving towards, and those who don’t, face losing out to the disruptors who do adapt.
So how exactly do you prepare your business for speedy click and collect? What technologies do you need to ensure there is minimum delay between a user submitting their order and your staff having the items ready to go?
A real pain point for retailers still is monitoring the stock levels in-store, in tandem with those online. It’s very easy for customers to order something online and the store not be able to fulfill it due to the stock not coming from the main warehouse.
RFID tracking uses a system of electromagnetic tags to track and trace the locations and quantity of stock across the entire supply chain, and can be combined with AI stock management systems to ensure that supermarkets are always anticipating demand and fluctuating purchasing trends.
This is twofold in benefits, firstly, online systems will then match in-store stock levels more accurately, and secondly, staff now have a more accurate picture for picking the items in the order.
Supermarkets are beginning to see the value in equipping their staff with handheld computers; they work simultaneously with stock management systems, and utilise AI to offer the most efficient route planning for picking stock. You can be sure that with a one-hour click and collect window, every second counts when it comes to picking and preparing an order for a customer.
Often already utilised in warehouses, AI cameras and heatmaps that show which areas of the warehouse, or in this case, the shop floor are most busy, again benefit the picker’s route planning. Working with the handheld computers, dynamic AI can optimise a route to bypass busy areas and ensure items are not only picked efficiently, but also safely. This is also important in supermarkets for offering as little disruption as possible to in-store customers when staff are picking orders.
It might seem obvious that the major driver for click and collect technology is customer experience, but it becomes an even stronger case when you look at the retailers already performing well for this service.
B&Q for example, has a major pain point in that if you have relatively little DIY knowledge (as most B&Q customers no doubt do) it can be extremely hard to locate the item you need in store, especially if you can’t find an advisor. Online, a search can quickly display your options, and each item can feature a detailed description about how it is used.
B&Q also offers its click and collect service at no extra charge, so there really is no barrier to customers using his service.
Click and collect also addresses a major consumer worry that will gain prominence over the next few years; that thousands of delivery vehicles on the road each year can’t be good for the environment.
Many customers will have the store they wish to collect from along the route of their journey to or from work, or are perhaps even located in a town or city consumers can walk to.
There’s also the strain of thought that one delivery driver dropping off 100 items to a pick-up point is much better than the same driver making 100 individual stops.
The interesting thing is, consumer eco-awareness can actually lead to some important cost-savings for the retailer too. It’s no wonder so many shops offer free click and collect services, when having the customer come to them saves them the cost of delivery, returns and distribution.
Another important thing to consider, if your business doesn’t have the facilities to host its own click and collect it’s quite common these days for retailers to collaborate on these complementary services.
Just look at the amount of Amazon pick-up points in local convenience stores, beneficial to both stakeholders.
Easy to facilitate with AV screens, these points often don’t even need to be staffed and can manage their own inventories.
Take a look at Walmart’s towers too, where users can pick up smaller orders of non-perishables by simply scanning a QR code and allowing a robotic system to pick their order from storage. It simply couldn’t get any quicker for the customer.
So what do you think? Is click and collect the solution to bridging the gap between ecommerce and traditional retail?
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