Much has been made about supermarkets being slow to roll out online ordering and the difficulties companies (and even Amazon) have experienced in making grocery delivery profitable.
Click and collect, where customers order groceries online but pick them up at a store or other designated location, might be a way for retailers to enter the digital space with fewer risks than delivery.
From a consumer standpoint, store pick-up can offer more convenience because you don’t have to wait around for the delivery person to show up and can avoid paying a delivery fee. For retailers, it saves money over delivery and opens up new markets, especially for suburban stores where delivery would be too cost prohibitive. As Bill Bishop, founder of consultancy Brick Meets Click, told CNBC, "It eliminates big barriers. ... It's a way to modify the model to accommodate a whole boatload of people."
Click and collect already has a loyal following in Europe. In the UK alone, online grocery shopping is expected to grow 126% to £14.6 billion ($23.4 billion) in the next five years thanks in part to retailers offering grocery pick-up.
Harris Teeter is one U.S. retailer that has been experimenting with both home delivery and store pick-up for online orders with its Express Lane service. Currently, the chain is piloting a mobile wallet to make the “collect” part of click and collect go faster. At the pick-up location, customers scan a QR code with an app, which processes payment from a predetermined credit card and sends a digital receipt.
Some customers have heaped praise on Express Lane, while others’ reactions provide a cautionary tale for what happens when services don’t match expectations.
Let's just take a minute for Harris Teeter's online grocery shopping with in store pick up #GameChanger— Megan Carter (@megan__carter) September 10, 2013
This Harris Teeter shopping online thing is a headache, cool idea tho.— حقيقة (@MsJaz_) August 18, 2013
With Kroger’s acquisition of Harris Teeter, Peapod's recent expansion of its curbside pick-up program (it now has a total of 66 pick-up sites across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic), and even Whole Foods saying it will get in on the action in the next year or two, click and collect is definitely a trend to watch.