Whichever way you cut it, clicking and collecting has to be the ultimate non-experience that can take place in a store.
If all goes well, you’ll approach the click-and-collect desk (or robot and screen if it’s Zara in the Westfield at Stratford), your purchase will be handed over and away you go.
A few retailers have tried making something more of it by putting fitting rooms next to the click-and-collect area.
They have even resorted to putting together a rail of garments, based on past purchase history, on the basis of ‘if you liked that, you’ll love this’, yet it remains a sterile process.
But is it possible to turn click-and-collect into an experience?
For an answer, it’s worth casting an eye over US department store Nordstrom’s ‘Nordstrom Local’ format in Los Angeles.
This one was opened at the back end of last year and is, in essence, a click-and-collect point on steroids, with added services.
The ‘store’ measures around 3,000 sq ft, and on offer is a hairdressing salon, a cobbler, a nail bar and a drinks bar, among other things. Oh yes, and it does have a click-and-collect desk.
“This is a place you can go to get a range of things done while picking up something that you have ordered online”
Sounds like a beached whale that is unlikely to move beyond its immediate neighbourhood? Maybe, but Nordstrom has just announced that it will be opening two more Locals in different areas of Los Angeles – and that it intends to take the idea to New York later this year.
Clearly, the pilot has been a success, and while this was billed in some quarters as a ‘store without inventory’, what it really resembles is a service hub.
This is a place you can go to get a range of things done while picking up something that you have ordered online.
As such, it comes close to being an ‘experience’ in the terms in which the word is currently understood, and perhaps shows that it is possible to polish the unpolishable, as a former Foreign Secretary might have said.
The question therefore is whether this is an approach that should be adopted this side of the water?
Standalone click-and-collect points are not that unusual, and if you head over to France, they are fast becoming the norm for supermarkets.
But this idea is broader than food retailing, and one that really should be considered by those still seeking to take the online offline in a more tangible way and bridge the digital divide.