While click-and-collect shopping may not be novel, its impact on supply chain dynamics and retail strategies is disrupting the industry as we know it. Click-and-collect gained further ground during the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s estimated that it will reach a value of over $703 billion by 2027.

We know that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. This provided customers with the option to collect their shopping themselves (click-and-collect), sparing retailers the costs and resources associated with last-mile shipping.

And it’s here to stay. Post-pandemic, click-and-collect continues to grow. As part of the post-Covid nation, shoppers continue to exercise the convenience of online shopping and the opportunity to bargain hunt the best deals while browsing.

According to Inside Retailer, 49% of Australian shoppers prefer using click-and-collect to buy food and medicine. The 2022 Global Digital Shopping Playbook: Australia Edition found that Australian shoppers who use click-and-collect services tend to buy more from stores than those who don’t.

Click-and-collect boasts big benefits

Click-and-collect offers retailers and warehouse owners several benefits:

  • Lower fulfilment costs
  • Faster turnarounds, as items are often collected quickly
  • More opportunities to upsell as the shopper may take advantage of the collection trip to buy a few more items
  • Flexibility and control

With all this in mind, a growing number of business owners are considering how to deploy click-and-collect in their own stores and supply chains.

How to successfully deploy a click-and-collect strategy

The implementation of click-and-collect isn’t straightforward or simple. Your warehouse and your store front – both physical and digital – have to be working together seamlessly, so that you have effective management of stock levels, fulfilment and order status and collections. If not, the system won’t work and you’ll only frustrate your customers.

Here’s a basic check list for retailers looking to deploy a click-and-collect strategy:

  1. Space: A dedicated (and easily accessible) pickup zone or location where orders can be collected. This may call for store layout modifications, or the installation of lockers/kiosks, for example. Since physical expansion is not always feasible, changes to store layout must be carefully implemented – they should optimise operations, without creating new bottlenecks or hampering access to goods. This is why it’s wise to consult specialists who can advise you on the best possible use of your space.
  2. Personnel: Store associates that are trained to optimise the picking, packing and management of orders. Amid the current shortage of skilled workers, businesses are challenged to secure human resources. This is where automation and robotics will come into play, negating the need for workers to take on repetitive, manual tasks. Instead, workers can turn their attention to more strategic tasks.
  3. An efficient warehouse system: Not only to enable optimal storage and retrieval of stock, but also to keep tabs on inventory. Cube storage grids, such as that used in AutoStore’s Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) are very effective. A recent ASRS installation for Czech e-grocer, Rohlik doubled productivity and drove a three-fold increase in picking speed. The company offers its customers a standard 3-hour delivery guarantee, but already, 10% of all orders are delivered within 60 minutes of order.
  4. Customer data management system and shopping software: The shopper should enjoy a seamless, effortless and efficient shopping experience. The goal is to create a personalised and intuitive customer experience, as well as streamlining operations using real-time tracking of inventory and orders. AutoStore’s QubItFulfillment Platform software, which manages complex online order fulfilment applications,  is available to customers in Australia and New Zealand.

Smart infrastructure solutions support growth

To help retailers successfully deploy click-and-collect, AutoStore recently introduced the new PickUpPortTM solution, which helps shoppers pick up their online purchases quickly with the help of robots.

Customers simply place their order online, travel to the retail store or fulfilment centre, and approach the PickUpPort kiosk. Behind the scenes, AutoStore Robots retrieve the ordered goods from the storage Grid and carry them to the PickUpPort. The shopper then opens a drawer to retrieve their merchandise.

The PickUpPort provides a frictionless shopping experience. It’s just been awarded the ‘Product of the Year’ prize by the German logistics magazine materialfluss, as it such an easy and cost-effective solution for retailers.

Looking ahead, local retailers will be investing more in online shopping, with particular focus on click-and-collect. Click-and-collect could unlock significant profits for retailers, especially as the sector leans towards eCommerce. The key, however, lies in partnering with a specialist who can support the company’s implementation of click-and-collect.

Jason Wu is business development manager for AutoStore Australia and New Zealand.