In this guest post today, Nick Williams, Head of Strategic Partners and Product: Parcels at PayPoint, takes a look at how retailers and consumers have grappled with the pandemic induced surge in online shopping and how leveraging the convenience store estate can maintain services such as click and collect even when non-essential shops are shut:
The supercharging of online shopping habits, whether spurred by preference or necessity throughout Covid-19, signifies further change to the high street as we know it. Now, more than ever, retailers are reducing their investments in bricks-and-mortar stores in favour of online channels. In that respect they have their sights firmly set on the established online-only marketplaces.
However local independent retailers and supermarkets are stronger than ever, having attracted the lion’s share of consumer footfall over the past year. Convenience stores have galvanised their positions as essential service providers, enabling people to shop for groceries, withdraw cash and pay their bills, all from the same location. For many of the most vulnerable in society they also double up as places to redeem Government vouchers.
One of the other driving forces keeping convenience stores prosperous is click & collect services, which act as a golden thread to link online brands with their customers through a physical premises.
An established retail service for more than a decade now, click & collect has been an important lifeline to many retailers during the pandemic, enabling those deemed as ‘non essential’ to keep trading during lockdown conditions. For independent convenience retailers, it has also been a means of drawing in additional customers and boosting their bottom lines.
With ecommerce soaring there are more logistics fleets on the roads and more parcels to be delivered. Yet, when the world begins to ‘unlock’ and vaccines are rolled out more widely, consumers will not be at home as often as they are now. Whether it be reverting to in-office work or going out to see friends, it simply won’t be possible for people to take delivery of as many packages at home as they might at the moment. It will be an era when in-store collection will come into its own.
For members of the public, collecting a parcel from a local location you are already passing has obvious benefits; even more so when stores such as those operated by Collect+ are open early ‘til late, seven days a week. And for ecommerce giants such as Amazon, eBay, ASOS and Very, it allows them to enhance their customer service options via an ‘in-store experience’, while also giving convenience stores the opportunity to earn additional revenue. It’s win-win-win.
Several Collect+ partners have seen record sales during the pandemic. In the first lockdown alone, eBay registered 50,000 new sellers. It is clear that in the current environment, online businesses are the big winners. However as the world returns to some element of normality there are opportunities for physical retail too. In the world of logistics and parcels there are some business models, such as the one offered by Collect+, that cater to both ends of the retail spectrum.