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Chairman of Marks & Spencer plc

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Why One High Street store has succeeded where others are failing

We all know that “Click and Collect” represents a huge opportunity for retailers to enhance their customer’s view of the brand, to lower costs from unsuccessful deliveries and to increase basket size.  But brands who rush to “digitise” their bricks and mortar business models without thinking through each step of their new, connected strategy are at risk of creating miserable customer experiences that lose sales.

 

Everyone quotes John Lewis as the shining example of the UK High Street in that Click & Collect really works for them – they typically experience a 30% increase in basket size, as satisfied John Lewis customers shop the store for extra items when they collect their goods.

 

I think that there is a key reason which is fundamental to John Lewis’ success in Click and Collect and one that other retailers need to find ways to emulate effectively.

 

As a John Lewis shopper, back in the days before digital, I could browse the store department by department. I amassed my purchases and then progressed to payment where the partner serving me would ask if I planned to take my purchases now or whether I would like them stored for collection later? If I chose the latter option then I could shop each department in turn, adding to my array of goods held at collection until I was ready to depart, when all of my purchases could be loaded into my car in one go.

 

I could spend the entire day like this in an orgy of shopping, stopping for refreshment, browsing the store, unencumbered by my purchases.  Each John Lewis store was designed and built to facilitate this with purpose made warehousing and a collection point near a store exit often with convenient special parking bays just outside the door.

 

Almost uniquely John Lewis stores have “Collect” designed into them. The only other UK High Street that could boast this is Argos but their model didn’t allow me to shop the store, only to choose my goods from a catalogue or subsequently a web page.

 

John Lewis have real competitive advantage. Their stores were designed for “Collect” and they have spent many years unconsciously training their customers to take full advantage of this facility.

 

When “Click” came along where was the most natural place to “Collect”?

 

Now John Lewis’ customers can shop on line, arrange collection in the store and having arrived in store can fall into their usual pattern of shop and collect. It’s natural and intuitive but most importantly the whole store and shopping experience have been designed to facilitate this.

 

Other stores attempts to drop a “collect” facility into existing high street stores would be amusing if they were not so inappropriate.

 

I wonder which bright spark in one famous High Street chain thought that putting a “Collect” counter hidden away in the corner of the uppermost floor of the store (when the only entrance and exit were three floors down) and conveniently co-located with the returns counter was a good idea?

 

The only good news is that whilst I stand and get my breath back after the long climb skywards and the staff are finding my purchases I have plenty of time to listen to the stream of complaints that customers make as they return items. There is nothing about this experience which is good. I’m disappointed that I have been made to come to the most inaccessible part of the store and that I will have to carry my goods all the way back and I am exposed to all of the reasons why I should not shop there again. Is it any wonder, that in such circumstances few additional purchases are made by “Click and Collect” customer?

 

Or the supermarket chain who drops a “Collect” counter into the front of a busy city centre convenience store. Full marks for getting it near the doors, no marks at all for locating it in such a way that it interferes with the lunch time queue – and – if I want to by my lunch and collect my goods, I have to queue twice!

 

No-one is saying this stuff is easy but common sense should come into play. Where a store already exists there will always be challenges in how to make the process work for staff and customers alike. But in customer experience, a little thought goes a long way.

 

In the case of the supermarket, imagine a different scenario. As a “Click and Collect customer” who wants to collect his on line purchases and buy his lunch. Imagine if I could join the queue for the “high activity” tills and when I reach the till the staff team member, check my  order, confirms that my goods are in store and signals another member of the team through technology to move my goods to a small collection counter. Whilst my goods are being identified and moved I pay for my lunch. During the two minutes or so that this takes at the till my goods have reached the collection counter where stop off on my way out of the store.  And all of this is explained on line when I buy my goods. So that everything links together seamlessly, making life easier for me the customer and the store team.

 

In the case of the High Street clothing retailer, rather than routing the customer to the top of the store why not give them a “Click & Collect Reception Point” on the ground floor in site of the store entrance? By placing this point within line of sight from the entrance it makes it easier for “Click” customers who may be unfamiliar with the store to adjust effortlessly to their in store journey. Imagine if I could approach this device and scan a unique reference number or bar code from my mobile phone or a receipt that I’d printed at home?  My collection could then be acknowledged and confirmed and my goods routed to a checkout bank nearby with a delay time – giving me time to shop some other items in store which I could then pay for when I collect my pre-ordered items.

 

A great focus on customer experience and appropriate use of technology can overcome lots of issues around store layout and necessary operational procedures. All that’s required is a little common sense and imagination.

 

Getting this right is a vital step in every retailer’s omni-channel strategy, creating a seamless enjoyable customer experience which will maximise basket size and customer loyalty whilst keeping costs to a minimum.