Commerce and the internet still have an awkward, anything but the obvious relationship it seems. In fairness this is as true of the rest of the world as it is for us in Australia, but it is frustrating when we see online initiatives crafted into a smooth, working model around the world only to find it being taken back to square one when finally introduced here. This is the case with the big “Click & Collect” offerings at the moment and in particular I'm going to take a look at Big W's and Target's rather lacklustre approach to this service.
Let’s have a quick recap of the awkward relationship. When email came along, some 20 or so years ago, postal companies were quick to decry the end of traditional mail. Then online retailers came along and all of a sudden the post got a huge boost. Traditional retailers decried this, saying it was killing shops. Gradually around the world retailers have devised ways to make the internet boost, not destroy, their business, which has led us to the world of Click & Collect.
Click & Collect means that consumers browse the website for a store, click on the items they want and, instead of arranging for a home delivery, they wait for the confirmation of their order to be ready and then go to collect it. A simple and effective idea – consumers get the benefit of browsing online, stores still get customers walking through the door. With this system running smoothly – and successfully – in the United States and the UK, Australian stores have seemingly rejected the idea of learning what made it successful overseas, starting from scratch and seeing what mistakes they can make for themselves.
Two leading retail stores – Big W and Target – have a Click & Collect system in place. Both have a not unreasonable minimum spend level of $40 to qualify for this service to be free. Target here has a slight edge, however, as they charge $5 if you spend under $40. Big W though has taken the inexplicable approach of simply not offering Click & Collect for any orders below that $40 threshold. There are no details on their website about a charge for orders below that, so presumably if you want to spend, say, $30 on Click & Collect, Big W simply don’t want your business. This is a brave approach to attracting customers, to put it mildly.
Paying for the store to put your order together for you to collect is pretty standard. In the UK the only supermarket to offer Click & Collect unconditionally free is Asda, and one has the sense they will only be offering it free until they have gained some market share. Free services online don’t last longer than they have to – Amazon, you may recall, were quick to drop their free shipping on all orders as soon as all online competition was effectively destroyed. For a comparison, Tesco have a minimum spend of £25, otherwise a £4 fee is applicable. Sainsburys do the same, but their minimum threshold is a more modest £15.
If a minimum spend makes sense in regards of world standards – even allowing for Big W’s unusual stance – then the turnaround time, sadly, does not. In the UK consumers expect, and in most cases can, collect their orders within 24 hours of placing them. This is not the case, sadly in Australia. The small print at Big W and Target say that consumers can expect to wait “between 4 and 10 days” before their order will be ready to collect. This, frankly, just isn’t good enough.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a consumer is close enough to stores to take advantage of Click & Collect, but also would find it easier to simply wait for a week or more to be told to collect. It seems far easier just to go to the store in the first place and load the trolley yourself. The more cynical, understandably, might argue that this is the point retailers are trying to force home – for them, after all, customers through the door represents more possible impulse purchases than would happen with customers arriving, collecting a pre-selected order and leaving.
Most, however, suspect that this is Australian stores just not taking enough initiative to see how the logistics behind Click & Collect have proved to be successful in the UK. Successful, that is, to the tune of 45% of shoppers last Christmas having used Click & Collect according to this study. This potential to increase customers and margins is something that you would suspect few stores would willingly ignore the chance to get even a part of.
At the moment the turnaround times on Click & Collect make it unviable, and it’s hard to see it being a success bar the odd initial novelty factor use. As things stand, it makes more sense to either go into the store or simply pay the delivery fees to have the items shipped to you. Hopefully the retailers will improve the logistics, cut the time by at least half and we can revisit this, but with the Click & Collect services as they stand it feels more like a lost opportunity to win consumers rather than an effort to give customers more convenience.