There are few retail sectors, if any, not impacted by the rise of online shopping and this growth is showing no sign of slowing down. A key question for every retailer paying high rents and taxes for their bricks and mortars estate is to consider to what extent these stores are either an asset or a liability. One answer can be to see these stores as an asset, and a means by which they can fulfil their customers' online orders faster, cheaper and easier. To this end, many retailers are now offering a Click and Collect service, using retail stores as a point at which the consumer can pick up their items ordered online.
By way of example, a European department store, now offers their shoppers the option to collect their online orders for (say) an iPad, a suit, a pair of shoes etc at any one of their many, often more local and convenient, stores within their family of businesses, with no delivery charges. For their online business team and customers, this is a far more efficient, convenient and cheaper way to fulfil orders. For the stores and the marketing team, fulfilling the department stores online orders or even managing the returns can help improve loyalty and traffic to the store, encouraging the purchase of other items when they visit to pick up their order.
However, through the lens of those who run the stores and the loss prevention team, the list of risks and concerns is extensive:
- How do I protect the items ordered online and sent to the store for collection from potential theft & fraud
- How do I send goods not collected or returned to the store back to the distribution centre?
- How do I know that these returns are not fraudulent or the goods not fake?
- Who will train my team?
- How much time will this new process take?
- Will I get more hours?
These challenges are significant and meaningful for stores. As one ECR Group member shared, the complexities in managing these operations at the stores led to the closure of their click and collect operation.
The aim of this study, led by Professor Lisa Jack, Dr Regina Frei and Sally-Ann Krzyzaniak at the University of Portsmouth, is to learn from retailers, via site visits, interviews and surveys, the extent of the risks and concerns relating to click and collect returns, the true cost of those returns and the best practices and controls that can reduce the cost of click and collect returns.
The final report and best practice guides will be shared with the members of the ECR Community Shrink and OSA Group in February 2018.