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Lessons From Walmart’s New Click and Collect Program

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
Lessons From Walmart’s New Click and Collect Program As we wrote about in our last few blogs, Walmart’s ‘Click and Collect' program took the retail world by storm. It did much to promote brick and mortar retail as a viable alternative to Amazon’s two-day shipping promise as just about anything in recent memory. In fact, we are most impressed with how quickly they have taken to in-store pickup options, and the strides they are taking to step up to Amazon's competitive position. That being said, there are a few areas in Walmart's early introduction of their pickup service from which we can all learn, articulated here. The idea is great: make it cheaper and easier for consumers to find products online and pick them up in-store. Walmart can offer an endless shelf assortment while keeping costs low and upsides high. Fewer items stored in each location, reduce costly shipping to people’s homes, and there is a good chance customer will pick up more items. All great benefits to the bottom line. Consumers can get their items sooner and do things like trying on clothes before taking them home, reducing return rates and keeping everyone happy. But as we detailed in a recent blog, “there are some severe pitfalls that can happen", and as we can see from the experience of a friend, not even Walmart has mastered this. So what went wrong? And how can Walmart and other omni-channel retailers get it right?

Buying a Bike, and Why Next Time We Might Just Walk

Recently, a friend finally conquered her life-long fear and learned to ride a bike. Thrilled with her new skill, she jumped online to find a bike of her own. But given her petite frame, she had a hard time finding a bike on Amazon that fit her, so she checked on Walmart. Great news! They had a bike she loved, in her size, and discounted online. It wasn’t stocked in any of the local stores but was available through the new click and collect program. Each store had an estimated date of pickup, and most were two to three days, but the closest to her house would be ready today. No exact time was provided. Wanting to pick up that morning before heading out with friends for the day, she called the store before putting in her credit card info. They transferred her to the bike department where she was hung up on three times. Finally getting through, she was given the number of a Walmart partner who handles home delivery. Turns out it was a private contractor, who only handled grocery pickup, and it was his personal cell phone on a Saturday. He did know she’d get an estimated time once she put in her credit card to complete the sale, so she did. Her email confirmation said it would be ready by 10:59am, a mere two-hour wait. But it also said not to show up at that time, that she’d get a text when it was ready.

Click and Collect Excitement

Unable to wait any longer for her first bike, she showed up at 11:00 a.m. and walked to the back of the store to the pickup desk. No staff member was available for nearly 10 minutes. Other employees walked in and out of the back room without offering to help. Finally, a nice woman assisted her and found out that the bike wasn’t ready and it would be a few hours before it was ready. Upset, she asked for a manager, who seemed well used to this problem. He took off to the bike section and rolled the exact bike back to her! The same one the online site said wasn't in stock, and no one had mentioned when she called to inquire. Since she had already paid, she signed for it and wheeled it out. A happy owner of a new bike, on time, but not at all how she expected it to be.  


How To Do Click and Collect Better

As we outlined in the blog on Buy Online Pick up In-Store pitfalls, there are a many ways to mess up. But in the experience outlined here, there were three critical areas that ruined the experience. All which are avoidable with a bit of planning and the right technology.

Give Customers Proper Pick Up Time Estimates, Not Days

First of all, giving customers the option to pick up in store instead of opting for home delivery is only useful if it means getting the item sooner. This is especially true if, like at Walmart, you’re ordering something over $35 that qualifies for free shipping. Having most local stores boast that you can pick up a new bike in four days instead of having it come right to your door in two days makes no sense. Second, when shoppers are coming into your store to get an item, they’re not really planning on waiting around all day for a text or email. They want to know ahead of time how to plan their day. Yes, being vague about pick up times can help add some flexibility in case there is a delayed delivery. But that isn’t the answer to the problem. Fixing slow delivery should be.

Train Your Staff Extensively

Store associates should be well trained in the complexities and processes that click and collect entails. They need to answer questions with authority when a call comes in, provide accurate timelines and connect shoppers with the proper spokesperson when they don’t know the answer. Being hung up on, being given faulty information about inventory levels or delivery timelines, and waiting for minutes on end to be addressed are surefire ways to ensure that customer opts for home delivery or another retailer on their next order. When a customer is willing to come in to your store to pickup the item, we need to encourage them to do so. As outlined, it saves costs, and will probably increase the basket size of good purchased.

Provide Accurate Inventory Visibility

Inventory visibility is critical for effective omni-channel retail. Let's take that a step further. Real-time inventory visibility is critical for effective omni-channel retail sales! Accurate information needs to be available to online shoppers, and it can't just be a pull of the inventory data from the warehouse - as it was last night. Many retailers will at least say whether an item is in stock. That’s a good start. But those numbers need to update continually throughout the date, and from all the inventory locations, stores, warehouse, and shipments in transit. This gives shoppers the confidence that they’re getting the product they want when they come into the store. And it lets employees provide accurate support.

Click and Collect, OMS and Omni-Channel Retail

It’s essential to provide customers with the flexibility to browse, buy and take possession of merchandise however they want. It’s one of the most powerful advantages of the brick-and mortar-ecosystem over pure-play ecommerce rivals like Amazon. Retailers need to have the right technology and processes in place to take advantage of this massive opportunity. Or face the consequences of being left behind by those who do.     Related:   
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