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Changes, changes, changes

Things change. Things are always changing. People and their expectations, in all aspects of their lives have changed. Yours have. Ours have.

Whether it’s a drive through burger restaurant, a Chinese takeaway delivered to your home, shopping at 9pm in the local supermarket, booking train tickets online or pausing live television – a constant theme runs through each of these everyday things. That theme is convenience. There is much more of it about than there used to be. The world is becoming more convenient, more immediate, consumers, people, expect more than they once did.

Online shopping, ecommerce, is very much part and parcel of the new world of consumer convenience and it has evolved in a number of contradictory ways to offer it.

The spread of ecommerce

On the one hand supermarkets have developed their home delivery service to save consumers the hassle of actually getting in their cars and going to the shops. They can do it through their phone, tablet or PC.

On the flip side ecommerce has also evolved to enable customers to order products on line from home, or whilst on the train back from work and collect in store as and when it suits them – removing the hassle of queuing or of visiting the shops only to find the items they are interested in are not available.

This is such a strong proposition; for retailers with stores and ecommerce websites – to combine the strength of both for the benefit of the consumer and ultimately their business.

For furniture retailers with stores this is an interesting development. It means people may be more attracted to purchasing online and avoiding the delivery costs by collecting the items themselves. If it’s a large item like a sofa, the customer may prefer to borrow or hire a suitable van and collect the items themselves.

Free delivery

Retailers should think about the implications of the much promoted ‘Free Delivery’ and whether they should have a lower price for customers prepared to do the legwork themselves – after all taking out costs and adding in customer value (aka convenience) is very much the central strand of the EasyJet and Ryanair business model – very much the Zeitgeist of our times.

Offering collection of ‘made to order’ items, such as a sofa is a relatively simple step for most retailers and is about have a suitable storage, parking and collection area with good organisation so the sofa is readily located and handed over to the customer.

If retailers also want to extend this service to stock items then it is essential that the retailer have in place a retail system which has an accurate view of stock in each store and across all stores and that web orders with collection are readily picked and set aside for collection. Afterall nobody wants to have customers turning up to collect the items they’ve ordered through your ecommerce site, the towels, linens, cutlery, lamps and so forth – only to be inconvenienced by the items not being there for them due to ‘a problem with our system’.

Click and Collect

Retailers who get ‘Click & Collect’ and ‘Reserve & Collect’ right (the right software, processes and service levels) are differentiating themselves on service; they are more convenient to deal with, more relevant to how people now shop. Furthermore the ecommerce website is not only delivering sales it is also delivering and footfall to your store.

Savvy retailers with effective retail management and customer relationship management software will understand the implications this has for upselling, cross-selling, customer engagement and loyalty.

The retailer will know that ‘Mrs Jones’ is coming in on Thurs at 2pm to collect XYZ. There is a great opportunity to impress ‘Mrs Jones’ with a well laid out collection area and for customer service staff who think about other items or promotions which may be of interest to Mrs Jones when she comes into store based on her purchase history and preferences.

Leading independent furniture retailers, department stores and garden centres who want to compete on more than price should think seriously about how they can offer ‘Click & Collect’ and ‘Reserve & Collect’ services to their customer base.