Leveraging Click & Collect for Retail Recovery

By Rob Shaw, MD EMEA at Fluent Commerce

The recent COVID-19 crisis has irrevocably changed consumer behaviours. While non-essential stores have at last been given the green light to re-open, one thing is certain: simply picking up where they left off before the pandemic hit isn’t an option. Surviving today’s COVID retail realities now depends on leveraging the physical store network to satisfy the rise in consumer demand for contactless fulfilment options like click & collect.

Begin with a clear plan

Executing a successful Click & Collect programme begins with defining a strategy and some measurable success metrics. Specifying what the key programme objectives are – increased online conversion rates, offering a free fulfilment option to customers, initiating kerbside drive-up and ‘grab’ services that appeal to target audiences, reducing delivery costs to the business – will help retailers to identify what in-store operational challenges they will need to address. Everything from rethinking store layout for in-store pick-ups and establishing pick and storage areas for Click & Collect customer items, to documenting operational procedures and re-training in-store personnel to confidently handle new Click & Collect workflows that are implemented.

Addressing inventory management

Inventory accuracy will be critical for enabling a robust Click & Collect model. Shoppers need to be confident that when they view an item online, it will be available for pick-up in store once they hit the buy button. To support this, retailers will need a Distributed Order Management (DOM) system that delivers deep inventory transparency across all stores and distribution centres. But that’s not all.

To flawlessly fulfil Click & Collect orders and boost customer satisfaction, retailers will also need to be certain that their order management system is sophisticated enough to handle buffer strategies that prevent products from being sold twice. Similarly, it will need to capture products that individual stores fulfil from available stock, so that inventory is automatically updated the moment an item is prepared for customer pick-up.

Ultimately, an order management system will need to be flexible enough to handle other future complexities. For example, enabling in-store associates to pick stock from the shop floor for distribution to another outlet for customer pick-up or a direct shipment to a customer, or taking returns in store.

Start small – learn fast

Identifying one or two stores to fully test out a pilot Click & Collect programme will enable retailers to evaluate the impact on backend systems and what is entailed where staff training is concerned.

Initiating a feedback strategy for collecting feedback from both customers and store employees will be critical for ensuring that operational processes can be refined. These data insights will inform decisions going forward as Click & Collect is rolled out across the store network.

Conducting a pilot programme using enterprise systems that require substantial development to make changes can prove a major roadblock for retailers that need to move at speed to capture customer demand. But today’s cloud-based platforms deliver the flexibility and scalability that’s

required to support test-and-learn programmes like a Click & Collect pilot, and evolve fulfilment processes once learnings from the pilot roll in.

Confidently prepare for the future

The ability to rapidly scale fulfilment capabilities and leverage in-store inventory has become mission-critical for retailers. Today’s purpose built Distribution Order Management (DOM) systems make it possible to quickly implement a Click & Collect pilot without putting undue strain on retail operations.

Alongside having an inventory system in place that offers full visibility of all stock – including stock in transit – retailers will also need to ensure they commit appropriate resources to educating in-store associates in the new procedures involved. In a world where person to person interactions are becoming fewer, you need to make the few chances of having staff in front of your customers count. Automating as many processes as possible will smooth their transition to the front line of the BOPIS retailing strategy. Finally, starting with a pilot will enable retailers to validate in-store procures and make sure integrations are working correctly.

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