E-commerce collect and return in-store will it fly?

E-commerce collect and return in-store service is being planned by fast-growth fashion retailer ASOS. In 2011 ASOS hope to offer their customers e-commerce collect and return as an extra delivery option. Let's have a quick look at what this means.

Buy online and collect and return in-store

I love the buy online and collect and return in-store policy that some retailers use e.g. Topman / Topshop and feel that ASOS could be on to another superior service hit. ASOS’s previous service innovations such as same day M25, free returns and ASOS premier have fed their growth to the top of the online fashion charts.

The greatest bugbear for many fashion shoppers with online shopping is being forced to collect their missed deliveries from the post office (why is it never open when you need it to be?) and not being able to make e-commerce returns physically to a store, as they are obviously not physically present in retail parks and high streets. The concept of multi-channel returns for e-commerce could be about to change things for the better.

Partnerships for high street stores

On initially hearing about ASOS’s e-commerce collect and return in-store plans I did some speculation of my own on how they would provide in-store as a delivery option.

Firstly, let’s look at how they are planning to do it. ASOS is in talks with a number of potential partners – one of whom is rumoured to be Waitrose.

The crux of the plan is that Chief executive Nick Robertson reckons it is a mutually beneficial opportunity, for stores taking ASOS returns and collections there is no doubt it will drive footfall up at a time when footfall is falling. My initial feeling is that high street competitors may be reluctant to offer ASOS this opportunity and this could leave them with unlikely heroes, like Waitrose. Once again, the supermarkets are in the position of power. Maybe petrol stations are a better option, but they talk in billions so may be too small a fish a fry?

E-commerce collect and return in-store - what about other online retailers?

This model looks like it will work out well for ASOS as they have the scale, but what about other online retailers? How could the e-commerce collect and return in-store model of delivery be made possible for other e-commerce companies?

One possibility is a third party could set up collect and return depots in high population areas and operate a bit like a third party logistics company. Getting buy-in from multiple e-commerce companies could help fund the start-up of such a venture and enable the mid-sized online retailers to continue to compete on a level playing field with the likes of ASOS.

The reality is e-commerce collect and return in-store is coming, how e-commerce companies are able to deliver it as an option remains to be seen.

Author: Oliver Rhodes