Click & Collect - UK vs US retail trends

In recent times, Click + Collect has emerged as a potent retail phenomenon, offering consumers the convenience of online shopping combined with the immediacy of in-store pick-up. This omnichannel trend has gained widespread popularity globally, with the United States and the United Kingdom being key players in its adoption.

It is estimated that US Click + Collect sales will reach $140.96 billion by 2024, while in the UK Click + Collect orders are projected to be worth over £45 billion by 2026. Buyer behaviour has irreversibly changed and as customer demands continue to evolve, retailers must embrace the potential that the hybrid shopping trend offers to stay ahead of the curve.

While the concept remains the same on both sides of the Atlantic, the Click + Collect journeys in each region diverge in interesting ways. In this article, we delve into the nuanced similarities and differences between Click + Collect trends in the US and the UK, exploring how each country has embraced this ever-more-essential retail strategy.

The Similarities

Pandemic-induced growth

Both the US and the UK witnessed a surge in the popularity of Click + Collect during the Covid-19 pandemic. Safety concerns and lockdown restrictions pushed consumers to online shopping and Click + Collect offered a safe and convenient alternative to home delivery. This forced an acceleration in a trend that would otherwise have evolved far more gradually.

By the time the pandemic was brought under control and stores began to reopen, the hybrid shopping habit was engrained, and consumers continued to choose the service for its ultimate convenience. As a result, Click + Collect has become an integral part of the wider customer journey in the both the US and the UK market.

Consumer behaviour

US and UK-based consumers exhibit a strong demand for convenience in their shopping experiences, so the core appeal of Click + Collect remains the same in both countries. The service is faster than home delivery, avoids shipping fees and allows for immediate access to products purchased online, providing instant gratification.

It also provides a more flexible shopping experience, with consumers able to collect their purchase at a time and location entirely favourable to them. This convenience factor resonates with busy shoppers seeking seamless integration of online and offline experiences and satisfies their desire for efficiency and timesaving.

Retailer adoption

Major retailers in both the US and the UK have recognised the importance of Click + Collect in staying competitive. From large retail chains, such as Walmart and Primark, to grocery giants like Kroger and Sainsburys, many have embraced the hybrid shopping phenomenon to enhance customer satisfaction and maintain relevance in the evolving retail landscape.

Retailers across both countries have invested heavily in Click + Collect infrastructure, offering designated pickup points, dedicated staff and improved online booking systems. This investment has been crucial in encouraging widespread consumer adoption and making the process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Technology Integration

In both countries, retailers have invested in technology to streamline the Click + Collect process. Mobile apps, online platforms and emerging innovative systems have been implemented to make the experience seamless for customers. This integration reflects the increasing role of technology in shaping the retail industry.

New and unique technology, such as the Clix Progressive Web App, is driving the Click + Collect trend in both the US and UK markets. This allows retailers to offer a more personalised service via made-to-measure systems that best fit with their product mix, store formats and consumer buying patterns, ultimately enhancing convenience and efficiency.

The Differences

Market penetration

The Click + Collect trend in the US is relatively more mature than in the UK, with adoption of the service starting earlier and infrastructure and processes more evolved as a result. However, market penetration remains higher in the UK with estimates suggesting it accounted for 15% of total e-commerce sales in 2023compared to roughly 9% in the US.

This disparity can be attributed to factors such as population, where the UK’s compact size and denser population make it relatively easier to implement efficient Click + Collect services. In the US, the challenge lies in the vast distances, resulting in a more intricate web of delivery networks, impacting the speed and accessibility of Click + Collect services.

Sector focus

There is a significant difference in the types of retail outlets adopting the Click + Collect model in the US vs the UK. In the US, the model is far more popular in the grocery sector than any other, with estimates suggesting that groceries will account for over three-quarters of all Click + Collect sales in 2024. In other sectors, the trend is seeing far steadier growth.

This is likely due to the larger average grocery basket size in the US and the strong presence of dedicated grocery pickup lockers in American stores. In contrast, the UK has seen more widespread adoption of Click + Collect across a more diverse range of retail categories, including DIY, clothing and electronics.

Cultural variation

Differences in cultural norms will impact the evolution of the trend across both nations. In the US, the tradition of large malls as recreational shopping destinations, combined with a greater emphasis on face-to-face customer service, may be one reason why Click + Collect isn’t yet proving as popular outside of the grocery sector.

In the tech-savvy UK, consumers are accustomed to using mobile apps and online platforms seamlessly. In the USA, where technology adoption rates vary across demographics, there may be a broader spectrum of preferences, with some customers preferring traditional methods of in-person shopping.

Delivery preferences

While Click + Collect is popular in both countries, there are variations in delivery preferences. In the UK, where urban areas are more compact, customers may find it easier to pick up items on their way home from work or during daily activities. In the US, where distances can be more substantial, the convenience of picking up items during a shopping trip is still appealing, but delivery options are also highly sought after.

What does this mean for retailers?

Click + Collect shows no signs of slowing down in either the US or the UK. The convenience factor, coupled with ongoing investments in technology and seamless integration with online platforms, promises continued growth. However, the pace of expansion may differ due to the nuanced market dynamics and cultural preferences.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for retailers seeking to optimise their Click + Collect services and provide a seamless and culturally relevant shopping experience for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic. Ultimately, Click + Collect stands as a testament to the evolving retail landscape, and as both the US and UK refine their approaches, this hybrid model is poised to reshape the future of retail.

How can Clix help?

Clix is a unique proposition allowing retailers to implement an entirely bespoke Click + Collect strategy, not only made-to-measure for their individual brand and product mix, but also tailored to the different territories within their retail estate. By analysing retail trends, purchase data, consumer behaviours, operational processes and product demand specific to individual markets and even stores, Clix provides a solution that is far more effective.

The ecosystem approach includes the installation of custom-made, branded smart lockers designed to best house a brand’s product mix and integrate seamlessly with a store’s format and needs. Order fulfilment and collection is facilitated by Clix’s own user-friendly, mobile-led technology – a pioneering Progressive Web App (PWA) that simplifies the process of Click + Collect and enhances the experience for both the retailer and its customers.

This allows autonomous customer collection via SMS weblink without the need to queue at a desk, download an app, use shared keypads or scan a QR code, which in turn eliminates queues and improves customer experience. The PWA also allows store colleagues to fulfil orders more quickly and efficiently, eliminating the need for manned desks, and provides for greater flexibility in the types of Click + Collect a retailer can offer, including car park and curb side collection, out-of-hours availability and third-party location pick-ups.

Clix eliminates many of the disadvantages of traditional Click + Collect methods, maximising operational efficiency and market agility for retailers, while providing their customers with the seamless, omnichannel shopping experience that they now demand. To evolve your Click + Collect strategy and find out how to streamline your offering to suit the individual needs of your business and its customers, book a chat with our expert team today.