Retail supply chains are being transformed by the digital revolution. At the heart of this is ecommerce, driven by the digitally savvy consumer seeking a transparent, low cost and customised service. As consumers increasingly hold the power, retailers all over the globe are having to rethink what they can actively do to be fit for today’s purpose while future-proofing their business for tomorrow. Those that don’t, face an uncertain future and potentially following the recent casualties that are disappearing from our high streets.
So, what can retailers do? The very simplistic answer is clearly to offer more convenient services. However, these need to be captivating, in line with expectations and at the same time, affordable. They must be built on a collaborative business model while underpinned by robust processes and appropriately technology-enabled. A pivotal service that most retailers are focusing on is a first-class Click & Collect offering. Long hailed as revolutionary but nice to have, Click & Collect can be more cost-effective than home delivery, providing greater engagement with the consumer, increased store footfall and sales potential re-energising the store estate.
However, for the consumer, the reality must live up to the expectation. Failure in execution, especially if repeated, is potentially fatal for the brand. Today’s consumer is more savvy and transient than ever before and if you are lucky, you have one chance to get it right! So, what are the underlying fundamentals of getting Click & Collect right? Aoife Oconnell, Retail Business Consultant at Zetes, explores some of the key considerations for a competitive and consistent Click & Collect offer.
A frictionless and transparent service
Consumers expect a seamless and frictionless experience across all channels, whether that’s in-store, home delivery or Click & Collect. Inventory accuracy and visibility is crucial – retailers must know with full confidence the location of their products in real-time – whether in the distribution centre, the back of the store, the shop floor or even in-transit. They must also provide their customers with the transparency they need to fulfil a purchase and track its progress with ease and crucially mitigating potential risks of losing the sale. As it stands, 92% of consumers believe it is important to receive status updates, yet less than a third of retailers are able to achieve this information.
Visibility is king when it comes to supply chain success. So, it’s somewhat surprising to see that 62% of retailers don’t have access to real-time information regarding product availability, and 72% lack appropriate capability to alert customers about an order fulfilment issue or delivery. When a home delivery or Click & Collect order is fulfilled from the store, for example, there is a very real chance the product apparently in stock could be sold by the time a Store Assistant attempts to fulfil the order – resulting in one seriously unhappy customer.
Full visibility of product, people and locations is pivotal when it comes to addressing these retail challenges. With the right information, a retailer can implement processes that deliver the right customer experience – from giving shoppers the ability to collect from a variety of stores to checking stock availabilities within a specific geographical range. Accurate inventory management is equally important.
Equipped with real-time, end-to-end visibility, a retailer can make proactive and fully-informed decisions. With accurate knowledge of where a product is, from the initial order to delivery, retailers can manage inventory effectively and efficiently and fulfil orders from the most appropriate place, whether that’s from the store or a distribution centre. Additional benefits come in the form of increased stock availability and reduced waste.
Using third-party carriers will also continue to play an important role in responding to consumer demand to collect orders from evermore convenient locations. However, a retailer needs to understand the importance of being transparent about who is accountable for what and when. A carrier not only plays a role in delivering the order it is also an extension of the retailers’ brand experience and promise.
An efficient operation requires an integrated and collaborative approach. A carrier’s capacity, ability to inform and meet performance expectations are fundamental. If a customer feels let down by a poor experience, on just one occasion, it directly affects brand perception and future loyalty.
Unless the underlying fundamentals of retail are in working order, a retailer will always be in danger of disappointing customers when it comes to implementing the latest sales and delivery offerings. And that’s not limited to just Click & Collect. Retailers need to ensure that the basic principles of the retail model are upheld.
As current research has shown, despite the increasing popularity of online shopping, many consumers still like to visit a store and Click & Collect gives retailers the opportunity to present an option that fits with the way people want and like to shop, increasing and sustaining footfall in-store, opening opportunities to further engage a customer and upsell.
The important thing to remember is that consumers want choice but they also value relevant, accurate and timely information. Rather than a blanket ‘out of stock’ response, a retailer should aim to be able to inform the customer of alternative fulfilment options to close the sale in the “buying moment” and meet their time window. Those retailers that take a step back to get the basics right will be the ones who successfully secure the sale, time and time again.
“Turning lost sales into opportunities during peak trading”, Zetes, 2018
Contributor: Aoife Oconnell, Retail Business Consultant at supply chain technology specialists, Zetes