The holiday season places more strain on retailers’ resources than any other time of year, and changing shopper trends are challenging business infrastructure in new ways.

Nowhere is this more apparent than bricks-and-mortar. The rise of ‘order online, collect in store’ fulfilment has created a new, convenient route to purchase for shoppers, but retailers haven’t necessarily optimised the end-to-end journey – especially at this busy time of year.

Essentially, many organisations have spent a lot of time enhancing the ‘click’, i.e. getting customers to choose in-store fulfilment, but not fully considered the impact of the ‘collect’.

During the holiday season, increased footfall leaves the store liable to bottlenecks at the checkout and customer service desk, which puts strain on both sales associates and their resources, and negatively impacts consumer experiences.

Add to this the fact that click-and-collect orders will reach record levels this December (mature markets like the UK already saw 1 in 4 use the service last Christmas) and bricks-and-mortar is going to be under immense pressure to uphold service standards.

So how can retailers best prepare for the rise in click-and-collect customers this Christmas? Here are a 3 effective ways to streamline store traffic:

  1. Christmas: when click-and-collect counts most
    One of the greatest challenges for sales associates is switching between the many different requirements that consumers now ask of the store. Creating a separate point for collecting customers siphons off those who want to grab their order with minimal waiting around. UK homeware retailer Argos, has promised that its click-and-collect shoppers will be ‘in and out’ in 60 seconds this Christmas, so the bar is already high!Rather than converting a traditional, fixed point of sale into a collection-only point, and losing a valuable transaction channel for store shoppers in the process, retailers may want to consider implementing mobile POS – especially as its payment capabilities enable click-and-collect customers to make additional purchases when they enter the store.
  2. Queue bust during peak periods
    Again, mobile POS has a major role to play here, especially among retailers who decide not to create a separate collection point. Flexible technology can empower store associates to respond to lengthening queues during peak trading periods, processing orders while customers wait, and keeping the line moving as quickly as possible.In addition to managing the customer experience, it’s likely to lower purchase abandonment rates among those who’ve entered the store to browse and buy, as long queues can be a major deterrent.
  3. Forecast when click-and-collect will impact footfall
    One of the advantages of collect-in-store fulfilment, is that the retailer can determine the length of time an item takes to become available for collection, and the period within which customers can pick it up.By setting a clearly defined window for shoppers collecting orders, businesses can chart when click-and-collect customers are likely to be in the store. More than that, they can adjust their strategy accordingly – rostering more staff, for example, or opening extra checkouts so that the uplift in footfall doesn’t impact the route to purchase.

In all three scenarios, preparation is absolutely key to managing the influx of collect-in-store customers. A combination of well briefed staff, agile store technology and reactive plans can ensure that a swell in shoppers doesn’t impact the bricks-and-mortar experience.

And if retailers get it right, click-and-collect customers will be more inclined to make impromptu purchases when they pick up their order – a win/win situation!

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