Asda’s new Toyou platform is looking to integrate native applications – including Passbook and Google Now – to alert staff when customers come into a store to pick up their online orders.

Launched at the end of 2015, Asda rolled out its fulfilment and return service to all of its stores, with hopes of attracting an extra 40 million visitors per year by 2019. Customers will be able to collect and return online Asda orders of George clothing, as well as those from third parties including Asos and Missguided.

But while other retailers are experimenting with Bluetooth beacon technology to speed up in-store order pick ups, Asda is considering native applications that already exist on a customer’s phone. Paul Anastasiou, senior director of Asda’s Toyou platform, said the idea is about using "technology where it would add value".

“The idea is very simple, a customer comes to collect a parcel and using the native app technology, the operational teams know the customer has arrived, so rather than keying in the order number or scanning a QR code, the team can retrieve the parcel before a customer has come into the shop and have it ready for them.”

Speaking at MetaPack’s Delivery Conference in London this week, Anastasiou said this simple use of existing technology drives down queueing times in stores.

"It's about the parcel waiting for the customer, so the customer isn't waiting for the parcel," he explained.

He said the retailer gained investment approval for Toyou in 2013 and began the project which now connects all assets of Asda's business. The IT team utilised smartphone and in-store kiosk technology along with bespoke applications for staff and off-the-shelf capabilities. The Toyou platform also offers the retailer functionalities to track orders from both George.com and third party retailers.

Anastasiou said Asda uses its order management capability to monitor parcels in an "air traffic control style", and staff can monitor events in the supply chain and be proactive if any problems occur.

"If we can’t recover something we can tell the customer so they can adjust their day," he said, saying third parties also have visibility with updates every 15 minutes.

Toyou also makes returning items simpler, by providing customers the option to print labels at home or via the in-store kiosks. "Once labelled up, the larger shops have returns drop boxes, while in the smaller formats, customers can hand parcels over to a colleague," added Anastasiou.