Money Consumer ‘Click and collect’ could save brick and mortar retailers in the face of online shopping
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‘Click and collect’ could save brick and mortar retailers in the face of online shopping

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Walmart parking spaces designated for online grocery pickup so customers can get in and out quickly. Photo: Getty
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Bricks and mortar stores are using various versions of the ‘click and collect’ model to satisfy a growing demand for “convenience” as consumers increasingly shift toward online shopping.

Some bricks and mortar retailers in the United States have recorded some of their best sales growth in years after meeting consumer demand for instant gratification, according to a NYT report.

New innovative models have been described as “a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge”.

Target in the US, for example, allows consumers to make a purchase online and pull over to collect their items in-store without needing to even step foot outside their car.

Department store Nordstrom has a self-service returns kiosk – similar to a returns bin for library books.

Meanwhile, Walmart has invested in thousands of ‘personal shoppers’ who save customers from the tedious wander up and down supermarket aisles. They do the hard work and prepare groceries for kerbside collection.

Retailers combat online with taste of their own medicine

Shopping expert Jo Munro said these industry shifts in the US are consistent with what Australian retailers have found.

“Not all bricks and mortar stores are suffering from online competitors,” she told The New Daily.

“The clued-in retailers are learning from what makes online shopping attractive and improving on the downside of purchasing online.

“The strengths of online shopping – the convenience and competitive pricing – together with its weaknesses of clumsy returns, postage costs and delays have informed the smart retailers.”

Ms Munro said ‘click and collect’ saved consumers time in transactions that would otherwise involve wandering through huge stores and asking shop assistants to find a size or where to pay.

“It still drives foot traffic while delivering the service the modern customer is looking for,” she said.

It is all good news for customers.

“This is how kerbside deliveries and some of the other initiatives the US retailers have introduced will keep smart bricks and mortar retailers healthy.”

Retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer said ‘click and collect’ will give bricks and mortar stores a competitive edge in the face of online shopping in years to come.

“Click and collect gives shoppers the best of both retail experiences. The transactional convenience of online shopping and the immediacy of collection,” he said.

“Retailers are adapting their formats to facilitate improved click and collect experiences.”

For example, Woolworths’ third-generation stores have ‘click and collect’ refrigerated lockers at the front of the shop.

British department store Debenhams, which opened in Melbourne late last year, has ‘click and collect’ designated change rooms so customers can quickly try clothes on before taking them home.

“Retailers are focused on making it easier to shop by removing pain points,” Dr Mortimer said.

“Placing the milk at the back of the store has become an outdated strategy. Retailers that aren’t focused on making shopping more efficient will struggle to exist in an ever-changing marketplace.”

‘Click and collect’ can still benefit from impulse buys

Retail expert Dr Louise Grimmer of the University of Tasmania said ‘click and collect’ helped bring foot traffic back to shops, as it gave customers another opportunity to make additional purchases.

“What we are seeing is that the majority of shoppers still want a personal experience – face-to-face customer service, they want to be educated and entertained and they want convenience,” she said.

“Research shows that around 50 per cent of customers will make an additional impulse purchase when they come into the store to pick up their orders.

“While kerbside models or locker collection points appeal to some customers, those retailers offering in-store pick-up will be those that will benefit from the extra unplanned purchases made in store.”

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