4 Christmas Click And Collect Questions Answered For You

By Paddy Earnshaw


This is the first of a series of articles, in which we’ll take a look at the concerns retailers have around click and collect, and ways of mitigating these concerns.

According to JDA, 73% of click and collect customers would change retailers if they had a bad in-store click and collect experience, and the rush of the Christmas and Black Friday peak puts extra strain on the service.

This week we will answer four questions about handling your click and collect service at peak.

1. Doesn’t the store team already have enough on their plate at peak?

A common concern we hear from retail directors is, “I’m worried about overloading my store teams with yet another process at the busiest time of year”. Having visited hundreds of retailers over the last three years, we’ve seen a wide spectrum of in-store click and collect processes and for some I would say this is a valid concern based on their current processes.

There is still a large percentage of retailers out there who are managing click and collect through largely paper-based and manual systems. This approach to click and collect is definitely not scalable at peak, in fact it creates headaches for retail teams with light to moderate click and collect volumes, let alone those who are facing hundreds (or thousands) of collections daily in the run up to Christmas. 

Related Read: 5 Click And Collect Data Points Every Online Retailer Should Be Measuring

The key to helping store teams serve click and collect customers quickly and efficiently lies in the technology that is powering your in-store system and a pragmatic approach to managing the parcels.

Relying on a hand-written log is a cumbersome process to manage the receipt of orders and dramatically impacts the speed of service when a customer comes to collect their order. When looking at your click and collect technology the key requirements retail ops directors should be looking at to create a seamless experience for their teams and, in turn, their customers are:

  • System driven parcel location (or barcoded shelf locations) – to reduce the time it takes to locate the parcel but also provide greater flexibility for adding extra storage spaces at peak times
  • Offline capabilities – wifi appears to still hamper retail operations; a sophisticated click and collect system should be able to run offline and sync with the cloud when connectivity is resume
  • Simple process flows – making the user journey simple for retail staff so that at busy times the technology easily guides them through the process. This should also be supported by a range of self-service capabilities to enable customers to progress the journey before they arrive or while they wait
  • Mobile solution – making it easy to flex up capacity by running the system off handheld devices rather than a fixed POS also gives store staff the ability to ‘queue-bust’ by progressing transactions at busy times

2. Should I give away prime floor space to click and collect?

For retail directors, their expertise lies in maximising the sales density of their retail space. So giving away space to a service that isn’t making a positive contribution to P&L, can mean click and collect is met by resistance from retail ops directors at peak. 

Optimising click and collect storage is a key element to overcoming these concerns and ensuring the storage space used for click and collect is fit for purpose and can be moved or reconfigured if needed is essential during peak. 

Take for example barcoded locations. A system driven barcode storage system means you can be flexible with storage locations and move parcels around without having to remember these movements.

Using a barcode system means you can convert any underutilized space into additional click and collect points that will automatically sync with the system as a newly barcoded area. Saving store teams time by not having to check multiple storage locations to see if a parcel is there.

Debenhams is an example of a retailer that uses this operating model well, saving their teams valuable time on every click and collect transaction, helping to make peak click and collect much more manageable.

For retail directors concerned about the revenue opportunity they may be forgoing by offering click and collect at peak, we’d draw their attention to the scale of the upsell opportunity.

Approximately 30% of click and collect customers go on to make additional purchases while collecting their online orders, representing an opportunity for retail directors to measure the impact of click and collect on their P&L but also capture the footfall of their online customers, through their physical store estate. If that experience is slick then it’s not going to damage anyone’s chances of upsell.

3. How do we cope with click and collect queues?

It’s a sight we can all relate to. Queues for click and collect were seen at some of the UK’s biggest retailers last Christmas as retailers struggled to keep up with the increased demand for click and collect over the peak period.

Solving this challenge again comes down to how you design the end to end experience from receipt of parcels down to customer collection. Much like the need to consider how you are storing parcels to gain maximum efficiency, the user journey for the customer service team member as well as the customer, is crucial to reducing service time and quitting the queues once and for all. 

As mentioned earlier, reducing the manual processing for click and collect orders is one area that will impact how quickly you can process customer collections. In research Doddle conducted with over 17 UK retailers (Doddle & Practicology Retail Click & Collect study, 2016), the average time it took a large retailer to locate a parcel was 5.17 minutes. Amongst some of the worst performers it could take as long as 18 minutes, and this was in July, not even at peak! 

Making your staff mobile is a different way to serve customers. Much like adding additional order storage space if needed, during peak it might make more sense to move your click and collect operations to a more convenient location to enable customers to get in and out, or spend more time browsing.

A fixed point of sale click and collect system makes this incredibly difficult if not impossible for some retailers. It’s why we’ve designed our system to run off handheld devices to give us the flexibility to open pop up collection points if we need to manage excessively high volumes, or increase the number of customers we can serve by putting on another member of staff with an additional handheld. 

Mobile systems also allow staff to queue bust by moving through crowds to begin the customer transaction earlier. House of Fraser deployed this technique in its King William Street Store, one of its busiest for click and collect, last peak. This technique enhances the customer experience but also maximises the efficiency of the team by not being anchored to a service desk. 

4. Should we even offer click and collect at peak?

One of the biggest challenges for retail directors managing click and collect at peak is the sheer scale of the volume increase. We’ve experienced the same challenges in our own stores, where volume can increase threefold in the weeks leading up to Christmas compared to a ‘normal’ trading week.

Preparing for peak in our own stores, we’ve invested significantly in developing our processes and technology to ensure we’re able to deal with the volume increase without impacting the customer experience. For some retailers, however, coping with click and collect volumes at peak comes down to a do or die question of whether to struggle through with sub-optimal processes and technology or switch it off altogether. 

Switching click and collect off altogether is a pretty drastic way to manage your click and collect service during peak. Of course, the preferred route would be to invest in the technology and processes to ensure they can cope at peak but if this isn’t an option then we’d recommend thoroughly understanding how your operation performs during an average day and understanding what its limits are so you can plan accordingly.

For instance, knowing how long it takes to serve a customer and locate a parcel can help retail directors to map what volume triggers will impact service levels. Developing contingencies based on volume triggers ensures customers aren’t left in the dark by removing a service or facing the problem of increased click and collect demand overwhelming the operation and your staff. 

Knowing what the service limitations are around peak offers retailers greater flexibility to be able to divert volume to alternative locations that are better able to cope when some of your stores may be challenged by the sheer volume increase. For instance the UK third party PUDO networks boast over 35,000 parcel collection points, with capacity for more than 100 million parcels per year.


Typically, click and collect can feel like a necessary evil. Good for footfall but challenging to manage operationally. Retail is a game of fine margins and any advantage can make a huge difference. Maybe this year the investment should be in polishing an existing experience rather than creating the ‘next big thing’...


By: Paddy Earnshaw - Chief Customer Officer at Doddle

More content from Doddle here

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