Retail & Services
Click and Collect gains more followers
Last Updated: 2014-06-21 07:17 | China Daily
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While express delivery is still popular in Chinese cities, a new shopping trend that combines online and offline services offers many perks for consumers. Many companies in China have launched Click and Collect services. Yuan Jingzhi / For China Daily

Traditional, online retailers come together in China to grow customers, profit

The growing popularity of online shopping is prompting more online and offline retailers in China, bitter rivals in the past, to bury the hatchet and collectively tackle the challenges arising from changing customer demands.

With more shopping shifting from bricks to clicks, traditional retailers are finding the going tough with margins shrinking rapidly, while online retailers are grappling with delivery issues arising from rapid urbanization and rising labor costs.

The real beneficiary of the alliance between the two rivals has been the Click and Collect scheme, which is becoming increasingly popular with both retailers and consumers in China.

Unlike the traditional "pick-up-in-store" scheme or "delivery-to-your door" style, Click and Collect allows customers to check online if a product is available and then reserve it to pick up in stores at a later time.

For many retailers Clickand Collect is no longer a question of "should I do it" , but more of "how can I make use of this increasingly popular shopping style to win a greater share of the wallet?" said Janet Low, who leads client services teams across the Asia-Pacific region for US consultancy Epsilon International.

According to Low, the new shopping trend that combines online and offline services offers many perks for consumers. "People don't have to wait for deliveries and they can pick up their purchases whenever they are available," she said.

"Retailers can also get quite a few benefits. Brick-and-mortar stores can cut down shipping costs if customers pick up the purchases themselves. Moreover, it is good to have customers visiting physical stores more often because they may buy more than what they have already ordered online," Low said.

As a matter of fact, many companies in China have already launched click and collect services. For example, Amazon China has recently announced that it has increased its pickup points in Shanghai from less than 100 in 2013 to more than 300 now.

Brian Hui, vice-president of Amazon China, told China Daily in a recent interview that the e-commerce giant is planning to expand its Click and Collect services from Shanghai to other cities in China.

The service has been jointly launched by Amazon China and Family Mart, a Shanghai-based convenience store chain operator. The cooperation not only helps Amazon China to improve its services by offering an alternative delivery option but also helps Family Mart to boost the number of visitors.

According to Amazon China, more than 50,000 packages ordered online have been picked up by customers themselves through the pickup points in Shanghai. The company said that the flexibility to pick up purchases whenever they are available is the main reason why online shoppers are choosing Click and Collect.

Apart from Amazon China, Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd's Tmall business-to-customer platform launched the service back in 2012. Leading consumer electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group Co is also capitalizing on the natural synergies of its multi-channel sales options.

In addition to collection of purchases, online shoppers can return or exchange goods and drop off or pick up their electronics for maintenance at Suning chain stores across China.

According to Epsilon, Click and Collect is quite popular in developed countries such as the United Kingdom. About 40 percent of consumers in the UK prefer to go to the store to pick up their purchases because the delivery options are not in the best interest of buyers.

Low said that Click and Collect is being driven by e-commerce companies in China. Most of them consider Click and Collect an alternative delivery choice as they already offer free shipping to offset the fierce competition in China's e-commerce sector. Offline stores must take the initiative to propel Click and Collect with customers, said Low from Epsilon.

"Click and Collect requires good inventory management skills. Managing business inventories for an e-commerce site requires a very good management system. You need to know exactly when you have stocks and when you don't have stocks. You need to coordinate with online marketplaces. But right now the exact coordination is not that strong," she said.

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