Skip to Main Content

Generative AI: Using artificial intelligence to make human impact.Learn how


What Does Future of Click-and-Collect Look Like For Retailers?


Retailers should focus on three key areas to improve their click-and-collect strategy:

  • Master customer experience with technologies designed to support it
  • Consider how (and where) to use automation in ways that will benefit order preparation
  • Use stand alone click-and-collect units to grow market share without cannibalizing existing store sales


Amy Onorato

Click-and-collect, or buy-online, pickup-in-store (BOPIS), is a way for retailers to respond to increasing customer demand for convenience and “no-touch” environments.

According to research firm eMarketer, a majority of U.S. consumers had tried click-and-collect before the pandemic began, with sales eclipsing $58.5 billion in 2020 from $36.4 billion in 2019. However, social-distancing and a focus on health and safety at storefronts is prompting even greater demand. 

“Retailers were lacking slots and capacity to handle the surge in demand for click-and-collect,” Thierry Elmalem, senior managing director, management consulting, EMEA, said. “In some markets, like the UK that are predominantly home delivery, grocery click-and-collect existed, but not at scale and not with industrial processes.”

Global data from the Digital Life Index, Publicis Sapient’s proprietary consumer survey, finds BOPIS remains one of the most preferred online fulfillment methods for shoppers. As consumer habits continue to move toward click-and-collect, retailers are reinventing their business and implementing technologies to manage demand, provide better customer experiences and improve profitability.

"Click-and-collect is a way to use your store footprint and logistic assets in a smart way."
Thierry Elmalem
Chart of Five models for C&C order preparation, with evolution  towards robotics and automation

Master customer experience with fit-for-purpose technology

Overall customer experience, measured by net promoter score (NPS), is largely influenced by the “handover,” where the store team is interacting directly with the customer at pickup.

How long did the customer have to wait? Was the order complete? Did they need a substitution for an item, and was it right for the customer? How did employees manage returns or refunds? How pleasant was the overall experience?

A good handover can be done in a few minutes. If things go wrong, it can take 15 minutes or longer. This delays the next customer who is waiting for their order and leaves the current shopper dissatisfied – kicking off a chain of fulfillment delays that negatively impacts not just one customer experience, but many.




Retailers can create a great experience using technologies designed to provide convenience. For example:

  • Manage item substitutions before the customer arrives to pick up their order. A chatbot or messaging app can help connect customer changes directly to the order preparation team, ensuring speed-to-delivery while minimizing mistakes.
  • Detect the customer’s arrival through geolocation enabled in a retail e-commerce app. This allows store employees to anticipate exactly when to have an order ready for pickup.

How (and where) to automate

One of the biggest challenges managing click-and-collect demand is ability to process, prepare and manage an influx of online orders. Manual processes are often inherently slow, inaccurate and expensive, with employees hand-picking orders either on the sales floor or from backroom inventory.

Retailers are working to improve their picking model, moving away from fully manual order preparation and automating processes in places that best benefit their organization.

Automate in key areas with micro-fullfillment

Micro-fullfillment is now enabling retailers to use smaller spaces (like the backroom of a store) and prepare orders at scale with limited human intervention. Retailers can use micro-fullfillment manage order preparation for curated SKUs (between 10-15,000), allowing them to move product that may be in higher demand.

“It's no longer a picker going to the shelf – it’s a machine preparing orders and bringing it to an employee,” Elmalem said. “You save a lot of time and money by streamlining this process.”

"It's no longer a picker going to the shelf - it's a machine preparing orders and bringing it to an employee. You save a lot of time and money by streamlining this process."
Thierry Elmalem

Hybrid order preparation helps scale

Between fully manual and fully automated models, there’s the “hybrid model,” where roughly half of orders are prepared with automated systems in the backroom and the other half is prepared manually on the shop floor.

It’s an approach retailers embraced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some non-essential retail locations in city centers closed and were repurposed as fulfillment centers to help meet demand for online ordering or curbside pickup. To adapt to this temporary “dark store” model, retailers had to quickly reconfigure store layouts and implement technologies to help employees navigate new processes effectively.

 “In high-traffic areas, stores became empty of customers because they weren’t traveling as much anymore,” Elmalem said.

Third-party picking/delivery services also helped meet demand. For example, U.S.-based grocery delivery service Instacart hired more than 300,000 employees to help grocers scale their delivery and click-and-collect services. The startup, which works with more than 25,000 stores and some of the largest retailers in the market, captured 50 percent market share during the peak of the pandemic because it was able to scale extremely rapidly and offer access to a wide range of stores and products.

Although it is not a click-collect model per se, third-party partnerships serve as a cost-effective way for retailers to respond to demand spikes without having to invest in fullfilment technologies.

Get strategic about standalone locations

Imagine an outpost where people can drive up, scan their information through an app and pick up their order right on site – no in-store interaction needed. That’s the idea behind standalone click-and-locations – a type of “full-time” dark store that’s gaining traction among retailers.

At Publicis Sapient we believe in a “city-based attack” approach to standalone click-and-collect – where retailers strategically position click-and-collect units based on competitive advantage, whether it’s attached to existing stores or completely standalone.

For example, French retailer Leclerc has dominated the click-and-collect market (with more than 48 percent market share) by adding standalone locations alongside its competitive prices, range and services. Strategically located on high-traffic roads or nearby key competitors, Leclerc managed to attract customers that would not typically come to their stores and grew sales without cannibalizing existing store revenue.

The future of click-and-collect

Each retailer needs to find the right solution depending on its market, cost of labor, the retailer’s footprint and space available. It’s important to test a few models and consider all options available before committing to long-term investments.

At Publicis Sapient, we have extensive experience working with grocers and retailers to understand what model is right for them and build the right processes meant to delight the customer, remove friction and increase profitability.

Thierry Elmalem
Thierry Elmalem
Senior Managing Director, Management Consulting, EMEA

Related Reading