Michael Smollan
Michael Smollan

Click & Collect done right can drive revenue, brand affinity

by Michael Smollan. Click & collect should be a bigger thing. Done right, it is a brilliant solution for everyone.

by Michael Smollan. One thing that continues to perplex me is why click and collect hasn’t become a much bigger thing. I’m a firm believer that collectively humans don’t want massive innovative change – they want a better solution to solve their problems. They don’t want to shift the universe – instead it is all about a gentler rub and getting rid of some abrasive points. They also don’t want it at any extra cost, which makes innovation hard; unless its subsidised as is currently the case with pretty much every single ‘scaling’ business on the planet.

So, for me, this is what makes click & collect such a viable option. I believe consumers have real inertia – they are used to shopping in a certain way and while habits are changing, if they were given an option to make their journey that much easier, they would buy into it every time. The problem with pure ecommerce is getting my 70-year-old mum onboard. Working through the steps of most online retailers is like getting Napoleon over the Alps – it can be hard! She has all the will in the world, but ecommerce is tricky most of the time, even for me and I’d say I easily have 10,000 plus hours under my belt.

What if we built an experience where a consumer could shop online, selecting either ‘category view’ or ‘store view’ and in a way that works for them; and digitally stroll through the store adding items to their basket? After which, in an unfussed way, conveniently drive past their local store at a pre-booked time and on arrival click ‘I am here’. Someone comes scuttling out to pack their groceries into their boot, hands them their favourite coffee, and happily waves them off a few seconds later. Sounds dreamy, right?

This solves a few problems. Firstly, it means the retailer doesn’t have to subsidise its already horribly low margins for home delivery; and secondly, the marketers can target a shopper with sampling, in car activations, or who knows what. There is no mission with someone having to be home to receive the order and there is less chance of the incorrect products being added to a basket. Win. Win. Win.  That said, with absolutely everything, it’s down to execution.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Woolworths – completely and totally and almost always, except when it comes to click and collect. Five out of five times I have the wrong products, no refund options, poor substitutions, and horrible errors. At least when I’m in store I can see what is out of stock as there is nothing more infuriating than getting home and having to double check everything; and where there are incorrect items, having to get hold of the call centre to process a refund. It’s a disaster. In one swoop they have managed to make most South Africans allergic to this supposed convenience.

It’s all about execution

As they say in the classics though, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Click & collect, done right, is a brilliant solution for everyone. Its scalable, its affordable for all stakeholders and it’s reducing friction in the shopping journey. If you want to get fancy you can pre order and load up your car while you browse the deli. The trick is to get the execution done right – quickly and efficiently, for example, by having branded crates that easily flip open that can be offloaded at home and returned to the store for the next round to avoid the issue of bags. (We all know the now familiar story of carrying bags around in our boots , forgetting them every time, and having to buy more bags that sit in the boot, only to be forgotten at the till point once again).

Keeping the process fluid and simple is the key. For example, being able to work off a pre-populated list to add one or two suggested items based on what the algo thinks is running out, to avoid an endless back up. A hot almond flat white at the window as the bags are being loaded and most importantly, everything that was ordered is in the boot with the only possible glitch of the advance order functionality explaining why switches have been made, allowing one to select a substitute product.

Surely, if this was a seamless experience more people would be enjoying this service on their way to and from the office. Perhaps therein lies the current conundrum – there is far less ‘to and from’ happening. That said, what about the silver economy – after all there’s still my mum?

Main image credit: Image by Matthias Boeckel, Pixabay.com.


Michael Smollan is Chief Growth & Innovation Officer of Smollan. Smollan is a leading retail solutions company that delivers growth for retailers and brand owners across five continents by covering every aspect of how their brand is managed at the point of purchase, from field sales to in store and digitally. Smollan partners with brand owners and retailers to deliver accelerated growth by increasing reach, driving availability and visibility, increasing efficiency and delivering superior shopper experiences; operating across emerging and developed markets, in modern and general trade, and across physical and digital channels.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Wednesday • Subscribe here.