Can retailers drive more footfall to stores and still minimise queues?

To encourage customers back into stores many retailers are rapidly adjusting their business models to multichannel, with offerings such as click and collect. However, when customers collecting orders merge with shoppers making purchases, queues can quickly form. And no customer wants to endure an extended wait at the checkout.

Retailers understand the importance of streamlining the customer experience both online and in store. Just like a slow eCommerce site may deter shoppers from completing their order, a long queue in store creates a barrier to purchase which can rapidly lead to queue abandonment. In fact, according to 2016 data, 79 per cent of customers won’t wait longer than five minutes to pay.i All the effort that goes into getting customers through the door and ready to part with their money can be lost by the sight of a lengthy queue.

And lost sales quickly add up. If each outlet of a 200-store retailer loses 20 buyers a day, at an average purchase price of £39 a timeii the revenue loss can be over £50 million a year.

If long queues are the problem, why not home delivery?

Home delivery presents a multitude of challenges for retailers. A drop in footfall is a big one, but deliveries are also expensive to facilitate. Customers just aren’t so willing to pay, so costs fall to the retailers.

Not only that, but the customer experience of home delivery can be mixed. Customers aren’t always in when delivery is attempted and if a redelivery is required, customer satisfaction goes down while retailers’ costs go up.

Environmentally, deliveries contribute to traffic load. So much so, that a World Economic Forum report indicated that, in the world’s top 100 cities, urban last mile delivery emissions are set to increase by over 30 per cent by 2030.iii Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their choices and are increasingly demanding greener delivery options.

The rise of click and collect

Click and collect is growing in popularity as a means to fulfil the increasing number of online orders. In 2019, even before 2020’s in-store retail restrictions, click and collect was forecast to grow by over 45 per cent by 2023.iv 

Click and collect takes the uncertainty out of when goods will arrive for customers, together with the jeopardy of whether they will be in to receive them. What’s more, once in store, customers are likely to browse other items, generating further sales opportunities. This can be a lucrative revenue stream - one review of ten UK retailers revealed that 41 per cent of shoppers made additional purchases while in store for click and collect.v  

There are benefits, therefore, for customers and retailers but click and collect requires sufficient infrastructure if it is to complement, not detract from, shoppers’ in-store experience and generate, not substitute, revenues.

The solution: parcel lockers for click and collect

  • Goods placed in lockers at the store
  • Customers notified with unique codes
  • Customers retrieve parcels

The key to successful click and collect is to optimise collections and the in-store purchasing experience. It just takes separating the two sets of customers. Buyers need to pay; they may even have a query that requires a sales assistant. Click and collect shoppers don’t have these needs. Their priorities are for speed and convenience.

This is where investing in smart technology can help save sales and increase customer loyalty. Customers collecting can be efficiently served by electronic parcel lockers which automate the process; securely holding goods until customers retrieve them. Sales assistants aren’t part of the process and the burden on queues is reduced because collecting customers self-serve.

Lockers can be inside or outside stores according to preference and to satisfy the need for out-of-hours collection. They are ideal for supporting 1-hour and same-day collect.

A positive click and collect experience, facilitated by parcel lockers:

  • Takes customers collecting out of checkout queues to reduce queue abandonment and negative impact on sales
  • Increases customer satisfaction for both collections and in-store purchases
  • Provides a safe in-store experience through reduced face-to-face contact
  • Frees-up staff from collections to focus on sales.

A retailer’s experience

For home improvement retailer Lowe’s, lockers provide a convenient way for customers to collect same-day online orders at times that suit them, without the need for face-to-face service.

Joe McFarland, Lowe’s Executive VP of stores, said:

Our No. 1 priority is making sure we are keeping things safe for our associates and customers while continuing to provide additional options to make it even easier to shop with us.

With more than 60 per cent of online orders picked up in our stores, this gives our customers one more option and the added convenience and flexibility to control how and when they get that order.

This is a significant step in our relentless efforts to create a fast and frictionless shopping experience.

Joe McFarland, Lowe’s

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i.     As reported in RetailWeek: Five-minute queue is too long say 80% of consumers McDermott, V. 23 Nov 2016
iv.   According to GlobalData as reported in Computer Weekly: Click & collect will grow 45% over next five years McDonald, C. 11 Feb 2019
v.    According to GlobalData as reported in IMRG: IMRG UK Click & Collect Review 2020

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This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.