Click & Collect is gaining steam in the US, where 71% of shoppers have tried the service. IRI reports that 82% of US shoppers that try a grocery pickup service would “probably” or “definitely” use it again. And of course, the service has its ardent devotees (“US Shoppers Freaking Out about Click & Collect”, “Click & Collect Changed My Life”). In any event, Click & Collect is here to stay, and its positioned to drive ecommerce growth in the US.

In order to capture the growing excitement in this space, both Amazon and Walmart have recently announced new technologies that could heat up the battle for the US Click & Collect market.

Shoppers love the convenience of grocery pickup, plus the fact that it doesn’t carry the same fees as delivery. But there are two areas that still give Click & Collect shoppers trouble: (1) purchasing a product online, only to be told at pickup that it’s not available, and (2) not being able to select the freshest products themselves.

Amazon and Walmart recently announced new innovations that could help solve both of these problems.

Amazon's Play

Amazon Go: Amazon’s new model for cashier-less grocery shopping draws on a new technology they are calling “Just Walk Out.” Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology could eventually be deployed to solve the availability & substitutes problem in Click & Collect.

Overall, US Retailers are still figuring out how to ensure that stock levels are accurately represented in online Click & Collect ordering interfaces. In France, where Click & Collect is most mature, retailers maintain wholly separate supply systems dedicated to their Click & Collect models. While Walmart maintains separate fulfilment centers dedicated to eCommerce, Walmart reportedly also fulfills online orders through their regular in-store stock. It can be especially difficult to maintain accuracy in online product availability when stores are pulling from the same sources to stock store shelves as they are to fulfill online orders.

Inaccuracies in Click & Collect availability can lead to situations where a customer believes they have purchased a product, but in reality, it is not available. In these situations, Click & Collect retailers will either leave the product out (and deduct it from their order), or offer a substitution. According to Field Agent, 40% of shoppers list unavailable items and substitutes as a primary concern for Click & Collect.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology could solve this problem. Just Walk Out uses a network of cameras supported by AI visual recognition technology, along with shelves equipped with weight sensors. The cameras, the visual recognition technology and the weight-sensing shelves work together to understand which products have been removed from shelves - and how many are left.

This technology could be deployed in stock rooms and even inside the stores themselves (if grocery pickup orders are fulfilled with shelf stock) – and online interfaces would automatically be updated in real-time with accurate inventory counts.

Walmart’s Play

In contrast, Walmart’s Fresh Online Experience (FOE) technology would be aimed at a different issue: concerns about ordering fresh meat & produce. The inability to see produce and pick items for themselves is the number one concern for shoppers, when it comes to ordering through Click & Collect.

FOE from Walmart would allow online shoppers to view the actual items chosen for their order – and give them a chance to accept or reject them.

There are still hurdles to overcome before shoppers see the benefits of these technologies. Amazon is currently only deploying their Just Walk Out technology within their Amazon Go stores. Amazon has not announced a deployment of the technology within their nascent (and as yet, tiny) Amazon Fresh Click & Collect service.  But it’s easy to see that Amazon could jump into Click & Collect in a big way - by combining their Amazon Fresh service with the Just Walk Out technology in Whole Foods’ 474 stores.

And Walmart’s FOE technology is still only at the patent stage.

"If Amazon were to develop Click & Collect through Whole Foods' 474 locations, Amazon's Click & Collect infrastructure would instantly be at least on par with Kroger's - though they'd still be well behind Walmart."

          - Danny Silverman, Chief Marketing Officer at Clavis Insight

As shoppers continue to adopt Click & Collect, it will become increasingly vital for manufacturers to ensure that their products are in stock and available for purchase at all grocery pickup points. Clavis Insight helps manufacturers track availability of their products within retailer Click & Collect programs via its Location Based Analytics offering.

We can expect to hear more from both Amazon and Walmart in the coming days, as retailers and manufacturers prepare for the $42B opportunity that Click & Collect could represent.

by Danny Silverman

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