Retail Click-and-Collect Set to Grow Significantly Post COVID-19 in Canada: Experts

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The concept of click and collect for consumers was a growing trend before the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis hit and it’s likely to become even more popular throughout this pandemic and even beyond.

More and more consumers are discovering the convenience of shopping online and then picking up their purchases at the store at curbside.

Gary Newbury

Gary Newbury, a retail supply chain strategist and serial transformation executive, said many companies have “tinkered” with online, seeing the store itself as the channel that they communicate and sell product to customers.

“This is a golden opportunity for stores who have now had to close, because they’re now judged as non-essential, basically if they haven’t got a proposition they’ve got no revenue. So they’re faced with big rental costs and all the other operating overheads, if they can get this up and running or if they have it up and running on a meagre scale, they have to scale it up across their network quickly,” said Newbury.

John McClymont, a supply chain and operations professional, said click and collect is a bit of a branded term that started with the grocery store sector but a more generic way of referring to it is called BOPIS/BOPUS – buy online and pick up in store.


Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, most retailers had already rolled out click and collect options, said McClymont.

“It’s an alternative to straight online shopping, utilizing inventories in the stores, so pretty much all major retailers had been doing it,” he said. “Most of them had been seeing some decent traction with it as an alternative. It’s a way to offer that online convenience but a quicker delivery / fulfillment (often aimed towards “same day” service).

“Retailers should be trying to leverage it much better than they obviously had and give it much more focus.

Some retailers don’t love the buy online pick up at store model because your customers aren’t shopping the store when you engage them this way, you lose that opportunity for an impulse buy. Keep in mind however that BOPIS is alternative to the ship to home convenience customers now look for.

“A lot of retailers have gone online because they felt they had no choice, you have to have an online presence. So I think right now it’s a great opportunity for retailers to actually show the value of click and collect. It has the potential of offering retailers the ability for a strong online presence while still leveraging their infrastructure and physical stores, that’s already in place . It’s a competitive advantage at the moment, something that Amazon doesn’t have at the same scale. They have built warehouses and fulfillment centres everywhere, and are now getting into physical retail. How many Walmart stores are there? How many Costcos? How many Toys R Us locations in Canada? Whatever it is, it gives the stores a better opportunity to reach local markets in a cost-effective way while still having that online presence.”

Newbury said the key for retailers is having a process in place in how to take care of the click and collect business. The benefit of where we are at the moment is that for many stores no one comes into the store apart from the staff. So stores could use all the space to develop a flow of executing this operation. They have an opportunity now for a month or so to refine this process for the future when the store re-opens.

He said technology is very important as well and retailers have to make sure it is user friendly.

McClymont said the biggest issue which is a big hit to the user experience is the fact that inventory management is not done well. Much of the ecommerce benefits from the fact that they have more centralized fulfillment centres, where ecommerce orders are automatically shifted or directed to the right “ship from location” based on the “ship to address” of where the product needs to go.

“It’s a little more challenging with click and collect. If I have five or 10 stores, there’s an uncertainty as to where I am I going to pick up. Am I going to the store closest to my house, the one on my route to work, the one by my mother’s house? Which one am I going to pick? And then are you going to actually have that inventory at that store when I want it?” said McClymont.

The other thing that is a bit of a limiting factor, he said, is the business with respect to technology and communication is their inability to quickly and confidently secure that product.

“When people are online they hit buy and in their mind it’s a done deal. They have that product because the website said it was available,” added McClymont. “For click and collect, they’ll let you put the order in but then someone has to run over to the shelf and find it. If they can’t find it (even though the system said the store had inventory), the order can’t be fulfilled. There’s more in the process, and the logistics of the inventory management is creating negative perceptions of the utility of the service, as most retailers have not been able to do this as well as what’s been created for online, direct to home orders.”

Newbury said retailers have a golden opportunity to spend time working on the process and the technology to deliver a reliable service without worrying what Amazon is doing.

“Never in the history of Canadian retailers except prior to Amazon have we had this opportunity. We’ve got this opportunity a month or two depending on how Amazon rejigs its network and how long this period of confinement lasts for to actually tweak this up and get very good at this,” said Newbury.

“And the second thing is ecommerce online has always been some kind of adjunct to the mainstay of the business. The store. The store has always been the source of major revenue. Click and collect allows the stores to own the online aspect of their proposition at last. There are two big benefits of this period of time. We will never get this opportunity again. I would say to all retailers who are either relative newbies at this or haven’t even started, if you’re doing nothing else you have to focus on click and collect. You have to be relevant to your customer. You have to offer that convenience option to your customer . . . That will become more ingrained into their way of life and it will help drive loyalty for the post COVID-19 age.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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