The click and collect retail model entails consumers ordering on-line and then picking up the goods they ordered at pre-determined destinations.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — Food and beverage executives interested in understanding where to place their “bets” in the e-commerce marketplace must consider the click and collect concept, according to several speakers at the Grocery Manufacturers Leadership Forum, held Aug. 14-16. The concept has gained traction in Europe and there are few reasons why it may not have a similar effect in the United States.

“Traditional brick and mortar retailers are taking their cues from Europe,” said Gabrielle Novacek, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group, Boston. “Just look at what Wal-Mart, Kroger and Hannaford are doing.”

Wal-Mart’s efforts to become a dominant omni-channel retailer are well documented. The company is experimenting with a variety of business models, including click and collect. Kroger also has been testing a click and collect model and announced this past June it was expanding the test markets for the project.

Bob Black, former group president of Kimberly Clark and a current member of Annie’s board of directors, said click and collect will be the “next big wave.”

Bob Black, former group president of Kimberly Clark and a current member of Annie’s board of directors.

“Look, in France it took a long time for click and collect to take off,” Mr. Black said. “But it was a relatively short period of time when the model moved from a couple of hundred stores to more than 3,000.

“We are starting to see it happening in the U.S. In the past few years you are seeing more companies announce more pilots. Even Amazon is now saying they are going to get physical.”

This past February, Amazon opened its first brick and mortar store at Purdue University’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus. The goal, according to the company, is to make the ordering and receiving of books and other school supplies more convenient for students.

While the click and collect retail model may be simple in conceptual terms — consumers order on-line and then pick up the goods they have ordered at pre-determined destinations — there are a variety of options suppliers must contend with.

“Picking options started with live stores,” Mr. Black said. “Then it moved to warehouses and dark stores (retail outlets that serve as pick up points only), and those models continue to evolve. Collection options are exploding.

“One thing that has been observed is in some cases consumers order some products on-line, go to the store to pick it up and then fill out their order by shopping in the store for fresh items.”

Dan Cooke, general manager of global e-commerce for the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., said that each version of the click and collect model will present challenges for suppliers. He recommended companies become actively involved in the pilot programs being launched, because there is no substitute for experience.

“You have to help retailers understand how to move the checkout aisle to click and collect,” he said. “If you sell bulky products or fresh products, each has their own set of challenges when it comes to adapting to click and collect.”

Mr. Cooke said one of the first things his team did was enlisted the support of the sales teams serving the different retailers experimenting with the click and collect model.

“They brought us into the conversation as subject-matter experts and we built a dialogue with the customer,” he said.

Mr. Cooke also noted that retailers in other regions of the world, most notably the United Kingdom and Singapore, are farther ahead of the United States in developing click and collect businesses.

“We’ve begun to knit together a global forum to exchange best practices and learnings from maturing markets,” he said. “We’ve learned there are some best practices that are easy to apply and others that are more difficult. By formalizing that community it can make for an easier transition.”