Click and Collect services have been increasing in popularity over the last couple of years with the vast majority of major bricks and mortar based retailers in Australia now offering a click and collect service when purchasing through their website. This service offers a way to utilise existing stores and logistics networks to distribute online orders that can vastly improve the customer experience, offering an advantage over online only stores that can help to garner positive customer relationships and brand loyalty.
The risk though is that if it is not handled well it can also have the complete opposite effect, turning customers off your brand altogether.
After all, the term “click and collect” suggests one thing, click online and place your order then collect it in store at your convenience. The term does not offer any indication of waiting or delay. So it creates an expectation of freedom to collect at your convenience, which could be 5 minutes or 5 days after placing the order. Obviously some semblance of reason has to come into play. We all know there is some delay to the internet, even an email can sometimes take 5 minutes to get from me to you and then there is the time for a store representative to pick the order and place it at a collection point. Nevertheless, the internet has also created an expectation of immediacy. What does that mean for the customer experience?
Over the last 2 years I’ve utilised the click and collect services of a number of Australian retailers multiple times including:
- David Jones
- Dick Smith (prior to it being placed into administration)
- eBay (through Woolworths)
The experiences I’ve had has varied greatly between retailers, but each retailer has at least been consistent with the service they provided.
So what have I noticed?
Approximately 15-20 click and collect orders at 5 different stores in Sydney and 1 in Melbourne.
I’ve been advised by staff at a couple of the stores that click and collect orders are NOT filled from floor stock but are rather sent from the distribution centre to the store for collection. I’ve been told in both Sydney and Melbourne that as long as you order before 11am in the morning it should arrive by that night. The website doesn’t make this abundantly clear, but once you select your store it does indicate on the product page how long until you should expect your order to be ready (e.g. 2 business days) so you don’t have to get all the way to the checkout screen to find this out.
So what does this mean? You can’t realistically order and expect to be able to pick it up whenever you happen to be near the store that day. You have to wait until you receive a notification that your order is ready to collect. I however found that I only received a notification of about 1 in 3 orders. I got tired of waiting for the others so dropped in to see if it was there. After some hunting around by staff it turned out it was. Since there is this delay, I’ve found it is actually QUICKER to order and have it delivered straight to you if possible. In my opinion this is a complete failing of click and collect because the idea of it is to be a convenient and quick way of ensuring you get what you need while you are there. It doesn’t matter though if the store actually has it in stock or not, you still have to wait for it to be delivered from a distribution centre.
The takeaway is this, if you need it urgently and want to ensure you get it, call the store and have them hold it for you. They will normally hold it until the end of the day.
When you collect an order at an Officeworks store it is a little confusing. There is no clear collection point. You just go to the payment counter. If you have received a collection number (which I didn’t always get) they will pull up your order, check your ID and then go and fetch it. At some stores this means a LONG wait. Hornsby for example they need to effectively cross to the other side of the building, go downstairs and rummage around, then come back. It is a slow process. North Ryde seems to be similar but only on one floor. I’ve waited up to half an hour at Hornsby after the staff member has left before they got back. Ironically there were stacks of the item I had ordered hanging by the counter so it would have been quicker for me to walk in and buy it.
Finally, you sign for it and off you go with your goods.
To be blunt, for a technology company and business services company, it is terrible. The two positives this experience has are:
- If the store doesn’t have it you don’t have to waste your time going in or calling up, just go in after you get the notification or after a few days and it should be there.
- The website does tell you how long to expect before you can collect it. This is generally 2 days but I have seen it indicate longer time periods, I guess if the product is out of stock at the nearest distribution centre.
I have placed 10-15 click and collect orders with David Jones over the last two years at 3 stores in Sydney.
The experience of ordering online from David Jones is quite a good one. Once you select your preferred store or stores you can see whether it is in stock or not, and if you have selected multiple preferred stores you can see this for all of them at once. What this means is you can easily pick your store based on stock without having to switch backwards and forwards between different locations. If you have more than one product in your cart you can see at the checkout which ones are stock at which stores and choose your pickup location to ensure you can collect everything at once.
The website doesn’t actually allow you to collect from a store that doesn’t have all the items in your cart in stock. In some ways this seems like a pain since you can’t backorder items, but it has the positive of ensuring that you don’t have to unexpectedly wait for a while on an item that you might need urgently.
The website indicates orders will normally be ready for collection the next business day if you order by 4pm, and that small orders may be ready for collection the same day. It also indicates that you will receive an email confirming your order and then another one confirming when it is ready for pickup.
Depending on the order, I’ve received emails indicating it was ready for collection within an hour of placing it. I was so impressed with this speed I tried conducting an experiment on a small order at the Hornsby store. I was in store to check an item out for size and feel. After I’d decided to purchase, I ordered it on their website from my smart phone. I then went and did some other shopping. I got an email about 25 minutes later letting me know it was ready to be collected, so when I finished my other shopping I went back to David Jones and picked it up.
The ready for collection email tells you where to pick it up, it’s always at the customer service counter and the email confirms what level of the store to find it on. Sometimes these counters can be a little difficult to find as they tend to be in a back corner of the store somewhere. If you are paying attention when you first walk in though there are usually ceiling signs pointing you to them.
Since these counters don’t handle sales, only returns, exchanges, click and collect, phone calls and general enquiries they do tend to be relatively quiet (unless it’s around Christmas time). This is quite nice because it means you are generally served almost immediately.
When you are served they ask for your order ID or the confirmation email as well as photo ID. The photo ID is checked against your order and if all is well, they will get your order for you. Click and collect orders seem to mostly be kept behind the counter unless they are large items, in which case there usually seems to be a store room behind the service desk where they are kept. This means that it takes the attendant generally less than 1 minute to get your order for you, and if you are picking up soon after you received the confirmation email than chances are it was actually that attendant that prepared your order so they know exactly where it is and don’t have to spend much time checking.
Next your photo ID number is recorded with your order and you just have to sign that you have collected it.
That’s it, it’s all yours good to go, nice and easy.
I have no major qualm’s with any part of the David Jones click and collect experience. It is quite simple, unless they are very busy or your order is large, it’s normally ready very quickly and then the collection process is easy and quick too. This is very convenient and what I would expect from a click and collect service.
In spite of the website not allowing you to order things for click and collect that are not in stock at your chosen store I have twice had portions of my order turn out to be unavailable due to incorrect inventory. Out of 10-15 orders I don’t know whether to say this is a high or low amount really. One interesting thing to note though is that both times it occurred, it was on electronic items that were provided by Dick Smith.
Either way, when this occurs the experience can be good or bad depending on how you paid. If you paid by credit card, they can reverse the appropriate amount back to your card. If you paid by gift card or PayPal though, they have to issue you the amount as a gift card. Not a big deal if you paid by gift card, but if you paid by PayPal it’s a bit inconvenient. I understand the limitations on PayPal in such a large retail environment though. Frankly, the problem was solved by not using PayPal after my first encounter with this issue.
I haven’t placed a lot of click and collect orders with Myer, primarily because my account became locked due to an incorrect password attempt and I have to call customer service to have it unlocked, or I have to checkout without a Myer One card and forfeit the loyalty points. So basically I got about 2 orders in before that and then the fact I have to call someone just so I can earn loyalty points makes the site just too hard to bother with.
Like David Jones you can see stock at the store level, unfortunately though the store selector is rather clunky and I have often found it failing to load properly. Part of the reason for this is because when you try and select a specific store, if it doesn’t have it in stock it just shows a small error message saying its not available at that store. Depending on your screen resolution you have to scroll to see this error and even if you don’t, it doesn’t stand out or really make you acknowledge it in anyway. So again like David Jones, you can’t order it for click and collect if it isn’t in stock.
A nice thing about the Myer ordering though is that you can split your order up, so you can collect part of it and have part of it delivered if you wish. How often this gets used I don’t know given I personally would probably get the whole lot delivered if I had to get part of it delivered, but it does give you that option.
Once ordered you will receive an order confirmation email and a ready for collection email to let you know when your order is ready to be picked up. Since Myer uses floor stock for click and collect orders I found they did tend to be fairly quick as well, usually same day if I ordered in the morning. I did find though that the couple of orders I was able to place did take an average of about 5 hours before I got the collection email.
Again this is very similar to David Jones. You go to the customer service desk to collect your order, so collection is fairly quick with the same ID requirements.
The ordering experience is not wonderful, and the collection times are a bit longer than I would like, but at least the experience is seamless and it doesn’t take long to collect your order.
I didn’t order a lot from Dick Smith, but I did try it out a few times on small items.
The website is reasonably intuitive and easy to use with clear timeframes (allow 24 hours for collection). Once ordered you receive a confirmation email and a collection email.
The first time I chose them because I needed the items the following morning and their website indicated they were in stock, so I ordered at about 3pm and was there when the store opened at Hornsby the next day. I was very pleased to find that even though I hadn’t received the confirmation email yet, my order had been picked, it just had to be entered into the computer still that it was ready to be collected. This meant collection took a little while, but everything was stored in a locked cabinet by the counter ready to go.
The second time was a similar experience except that I ordered one morning and picked it up the next. I hadn’t received an order confirmation email yet, and my order was not ready to go so I had to wait a little while for it. It was in stock though as the website said and so it only took about 10 minutes for them to pick it and enter it into the computer.
ID is then required and a signature confirming you have collected it.
Ebay (through Woolworths)
This one is a bit different because there are so many different retailers on eBay with so many different service standards. Since none of the products are actually stocked or sold by Woolworths this means you have to wait for it to be delivered to your local Woolworths store where it is then processed for collection. I’ve had about 10 eBay orders collected through my local Woolworths.
Ebay spends a lot on improving their ordering experience and while the site is not the most intuitive it is easy to use and enables you to order from many different sellers at once with one common collection point (if they all offer the click and collect service). Once you have completed your order you then can enter a mobile number to receive the collection notification. You will also receive an email once your order is ready to be collected.
Don’t expect a quick collection. Depending on where your product is actually coming from you could have a 10 day wait for collection, but then it would probably take that long to be delivered direct to you anyway. One thing I noticed is that on occasion the tracking would indicate my item had been delivered only a day or 2 after ordering, but then it would take another 2-3 days before it would be marked ready for collection.
Once you get the confirmation email or text it will have a pin number, take that pin number to the customer service counter. They will enter it in a little scanner. If you are lucky, it will work the first time, if not it will take a couple of goes. Once that has worked, they pull it out of a locker under the counter and off you go, no ID required.
Since items have to be shipped to Woolworths first it is difficult to directly compare to other retailers. It is however a similar system to what Officeworks uses. The key difference though is that once your order is ready to collect it is actually a quick and easy collection process that enables anyone with the right pin to collect your order for you. Yes the scanner failing to work about 50% of the time is a pain, but even taking that into account it is quite a quick collection on top of a relatively easy ordering experience.
Apple is a relative newcomer to click and collect in Australia and has only recently started offering click and collect at it’s stores. The first time I noticed it was in January 2016. Since then I’ve placed 3 click and collect orders so far.
The Apple website has become simpler by incorporating the shopping experience into the information pages that were previously separated. On these pages you can check availability at any store and when it is available (e.g. Today). All my orders have said they were available today. From there the checkout also confirms the availability before letting you order.
Once you have ordered you will receive a confirmation email and another one when it is ready for collection.
I have received a collection email in under 15 minutes every time so far.
If you have been to an Apple store then you will know there are staff everywhere waiting to serve you. Pick any of them and let them know you have an order to collect. They will need the number from the order or your name. They will find your order on their iPhone and dispatch someone to bring it out for you.
Meanwhile they will check your ID and make sure you are really you. They will then also check if you need a printed receipt or not. By the time all this is done your order is in your hand and you are ready to go.
Apple is very good at crafting positive user experiences, and their click and collect experience is no exception.
Of all the retailers I’ve tried, Apple by far offers the best service that works exactly as you would expect and is very fast with no waiting.
I assume if the item isn’t in stock at a particular store than it will take a bit longer, but unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity of trying this circumstance out. My suspicion though is that if it is anything like getting an order delivered from Apple, it would be available for collection the next day.
So what can we learn?
I buy too much online? Maybe.
That aside though, the customer experience is vastly different. Every time I click and collect from Officeworks I think “why on earth did I do this again, I should have just ordered it from somewhere else or gotten it delivered to me.” It’s such a painful experience, it really doesn’t do anything to help them.
Comparatively, Apple does an amazing job at it that is streamlined, fast and convenient, exactly what I would expect from this kind of service.
In the department store area David Jones and Myer show two ends of the scale as well, they both have their advantages and a streamlined collection process, but the actual ordering experience on David Jones is much better meaning they get more business (or at least more of my business given I can’t even order from the Myer website without calling them first to unlock my account).
And then there is the eBay/Woolworths type of service that provides a collection point for a traditionally mail order only type of service.
When I compare these services I come to a couple of conclusions.
- Officeworks does not appear to genuinely want to offer a click and collect service, rather they just want to look like they are on the bandwagon/fad/whatever you want to call it. Thus the service is clunky, slow and unpleasant.
- Retailers exemplified by Apple but also shown by David Jones seem to recognise the benefit of providing a streamlined, fast, easy service and the impact that can have on their brand image.
- If you offer a click and collect service, do it right. Make it fast and exactly as people expect it to be. No half hearted attempts. If you can’t do it properly, you are better off not doing it at all and make sure your other delivery options are as smooth and efficient as possible.
- If you don’t make it a good customer experience it reflects poorly on your brand and how much you actually care about your customers.