Lockdowns of various lengths, national and international borders shutting, stores shut, re-opened, shut again, re-opened with reduced capacity, social distancing, physical barriers, deep cleaning, panic buying, contact tracing, and different rules in each region. Retail has certainly been at the front of the pandemic rollercoaster. Transformation overnight has become a vital survival skill, not just a nice to have. Combine this with a customer base whose expectations of what makes a great experience have continued to rise, and in some cases are heightened through periods of lockdown and you have a sense of the challenge facing the retail sector. 

For brands that have already been focused on enhancing the customer journey, the last few months have accelerated the path to digital transformation. As a team, we have watched as our clients have braced and adapted to the impact the current climate has had on their businesses. Powering customer engagement on the day of service has required many virtual meetings to help strategize workflows that make sense for each client. 

Some need to communicate with their customers that they shouldn’t approach a delivery driver, but should instead use the two-way communication tools provided. Others need to scale up contactless Click & Collect operations to account for multiple pick-up bays and timeframes. 

Contactless click & collect

Prior to the pandemic, we started to see consumers shift towards the convenience and control of click and collect. Two of the primary drivers of use of this channel are stock certainty – knowing that I can have the product I want, and control – the order is ready for me to pick up on my timeline, I don’t have to wait for someone to deliver it. Usage of click & collect has been accelerated by the pandemic with a number of Localz customers seeing 200%-300% growth year on year. It’s clear that this volume will remain and grow as consumers have adopted store pick-up as a habitual way to shop in post-lockdown Australia and New Zealand.

Critically though, the process of handover has had to adapt to the need to keep team members and customers socially distanced and safe. Woolworths supermarkets (one of Australia’s most trusted brands) has been successfully using Localz click and collect platform to power its Pick Up operation for a number of years. They have been able to swiftly adapt their operations to deploy a contactless drive-up and direct-to-boot service. Dan Murphy’s, BIG W, and Bunnings have also been able to implement the same approach which has rapidly become customers’ preferred choice for their pick-up experience due to its convenience and safety. 

Woolworths uses Localz technology within its customer and team member apps to allow for faster and more customer focussed Click and Collect experiences.

The Localz solution enables Woolies customers to be notified when their order is ready via the app or their preferred communications channel. They can then alert the store when they are on their way which enables Woolies team members to collate the order ready for a speedy pick-up.  

Reminders for team members can be set for retrieving frozen and hot items, checking the temperature of goods, or verifying ID for any age-restricted items in the order before handover.

Information is provided to the team member to help them handover the goods in the shortest time possible including the location of the customer and options such as car registration number, make, colour etc..

Click and Collect no longer nice to have 

Click and collect is now a must-have offering.  Retailers offering click and collect services are reaping the rewards. According to the Salesforce Q2 shopping index,  sites advertising buy online and curbside pick-up options saw digital revenues grow by 127% year over year. Meanwhile, sites that operate physical stores but didn’t offer a pick-up option only increased by 54%.

Click-and-collect has demonstrable upsides, but adopting a convenient pickup service can quickly turn into a nightmare if not done correctly. In the next section, we go over the best practices to help you set up your click and collect service. 

Click and Collect best practices

Shoppers will switch loyalties to retailers who offer a seamless click and collect experience.Here are some best practices that will help you create an excellent click and collect customer experience.

Communicate updates: In advance of the collection window, communicate clear instructions via app, web portal, SMS, or email when items are ready for pick-up and how the handover process will work.  You can automate this process using smart, real-time messaging, and location technology.

Have designated pick-up areas:  Have a designated pick-up location that customers can easily access at both the parking lot (curbside) and inside at the front of the store for customers who prefer to come in. Provide clear way-finding signage to help customers easily find designated pick-up points and cut the time it takes to complete the pick-up process. 

Pick-up time: Schedule your resources to meet demand and avoid having too many customers in one area at the same time by enabling shoppers to book collection times. Pick-up time windows can be added as a post-checkout screen using a time slot appointment scheduling software.

Reduce wait times:  According to the 2018 Bell and Howell Click and Collect Retail Consumer Preference Study,  more than 80 % of consumers expect to be able to pick-up their items in under 10 minutes.

Reduce pick-up time by informing customers in advance where to go for pick-up and enable two-way communications so customers can notify you when they’ve arrived to reduce dwell and handover time.  Equip store associates with handheld mobile devices and scanners so that they can locate customer orders and expedite pick-up.

Train employees: Train store associates on how to associate process orders quickly.  Also, consider training employees to digitally share knowledge and give expert advice about products and services with customers. This will help them to deliver a great click and collect experience.

Fraud protection: Due to the increase in online shopping,  click and collect is being targeted by fraudsters.  Buy online, pick-up in-store fraud rose by 55% in the first half of 2020, according to the Forter Fraud Attack Index.

Protect your business and customers by issuing a unique one-time PIN code to customers. To collect their order in-store, customers simply present their assigned pin code at the designated collection point.

Enable customers to nominate an alternative person to pick-up: Sometimes other life priorities get in the way of a customer being able to collect their own order. For vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly and infirm, being able to nominate a carer to pick up their order greatly improves their safety. 

Implementing a simple and intuitive workflow to enable the customer to nominate someone else to collect on their behalf (and receive the one-time PIN code and instructions directly) increases usage and satisfaction of the service. Automatically providing the details of the nominee to team members improves the efficiency of the handover and reduces the instance of fraud.

Keep customers safe: Ensure social distancing at the store by keeping customers in their vehicles through the pick-up process. You can rezone parking bays exclusively for Pick Up or make drive-thru available for all collections. Leverage digital IDs to remote validate in your checkout system without a customer having to get close to show their government-issued ID.

COVID-19 safety: Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  for all staff picking and packing as well as those close to customers at handover. Frequently clean totes, shelves, counters, storage areas, and commonly used surfaces. Whenever possible, encourage the use of debit or credit cards to avoid cash on collection.

Invest in Click and Collect

With a significant number of consumers unlikely to return to feeling comfortable mixing in crowded shops until the COVID-19 crisis is over, click and collect has become the new normal and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Now is the time for you to offer a safe and convenient click and collect service to have a competitive edge, build customer loyalty, and grow your business.

Tim Andrew is CEO and co-founder at Localz