What is Curbside Pickup?

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Quick answer: An alternative to the standard delivery option where a product is taken directly to a customer’s home or business address, curbside pickup allows customers to pick the item they want up themselves, safely.

With curbside pickup, your customer can make an order online, then choose one of your business locations closest to them, where they would like to go to receive their purchase.

If your company offers curbside pickup, you may allow customers to collect an item directly from a warehouse, a store, or a specific designated pickup location.

Unlike standard “pick-up-in-store” services, curbside pickup was created specifically for the age of contactless delivery. With this methodology, customers remain within their car, and the product or item is passed through to them by a designated individual.

What is Curbside Pickup?

Curbside pickup, or “car-side pickup” as it’s called by some companies, became a popular solution for customers in immediate need of an item during the pandemic. If a customer needed to access a product immediately, they could search on a company’s website for a warehouse or “pickup” location which had the item available.

After finding the item, the customer could then drive to the location and receive the product often on the same day. This also saves the company the time and money involved with packing and shipping the item to the customer.

Curbside pickup is often offered by businesses as a free service, similar to picking an item up in-store. However, with this method, companies were able to maintain a higher level of safety for both their customers and their employees. Perhaps the most significant defining factor of curbside pickup is that your customer and employee don’t have to interact face-to-face.

Contactless curbside pickup quickly became a necessity for a lot of companies during the pandemic, particularly those in the fast food industry. However, the service has become popular among customers as an easy way to access products quickly.

According to the National Retail federation, during 2020, around half of all customers had already tried curbside pickup, and 81% of customers said they were keen to try it.

How Does Curbside pickup work?

Curbside pickup is a solution which allows companies to bridge the gap between in-person and online shopping, by giving customers a way to choose local pickup as a delivery method. Before the pandemic, a handful of companies with local retail locations offered “buy online, pick up in-store” services, which followed a similar methodology.

Curbside pickup works in a similar way to click-and-collect services. The customer can place an order online using the same app or ecommerce store they would usually access to make their purchase. At the checkout page, the customer would search for the “pickup” location most suitable for them and choose it before processing payment.

Most companies offering curbside pickup would use special software to notify the people within the store that an order had been requested, so the item can be packaged or prepared for the customer’s arrival. Most restaurants or companies would then provide their customer with a specific pick-up time or slot when they could arrive to be given their order.

The convenience of curbside pickup has actually turned the service into a powerful tool for retailers attempting to promote an omnichannel sales strategy. Target reported a huge 734% increase in “drive-up” sales using the curbside pickup strategy during the second quarter of 2020 alone.

The Curbside Pickup Process

This is what curbside pickup would look like for a retail store owner:

Step 1

The customer shops for a product on your website, and adds items to their basket, just as they would normally do when shopping online.

Step 2

At the checkout page, your customer will see “curbside pickup” as a selectable option. Clicking on this option will often provide your customer with a range of local locations where they can collect their order.

Step 3

The customer selects the location for their curbside pickup and completes their purchase using your ecommerce system. This automatically sends a notification to your order management system.

Step 4

The employees at the location where the curbside pickup is offered will receive a notification an order has been placed. This allows them to prioritize packing and preparing the item or product for pickup.

Step 5

The customer receives a notification letting them know when their pickup will be available. Many restaurants and companies use specific pickup times to ensure their guests arrive at the right time to receive the order straight away.

Step 6

The customer travels to the destination and may be able to send a message or press a button on their phone to notify staff of their arrival. This is often a must-have feature if a designated pick-up time isn’t given.

Step 7

A member of staff steps out of the store to deliver the order to the customer “at the curbside”. Some companies also have designated pickup stations which require a customer to wait in a specific location until their order is provided.

Curbside pickup is an ongoing order fulfillment solution, designed to support customers who either want to avoid contact with an employee or customer service agent, prefer to shop primarily online, or want to minimize the waiting time associated with getting their order delivered.

Though the solution started off as a service offered by major retailers like Target and Walmart, it quickly became a popular choice for a wide range of business owners. Many ecommerce solutions with integrations for offline selling now offer curbside pickup as an option.

Curbside pickup has also become a particularly popular choice for restaurants and food companies trying to reduce the number of people walking through their premises throughout the day.

After the order is delivered, your customer can drive off with their product, and you don’t have to worry about accepting payment, because the transaction has already been processed online.

Is Curbside store pickup easy to implement?

If you’re looking for a new way to get online orders to customers, and you want to improve the customer experience, curbside pickup could be a good choice. Used correctly, this solution can lead to more credit card purchases, and improved customer loyalty, but you will need to take various steps to get the process right.

For instance, you’ll need to ensure there’s a dedicated parking lot or pickup location available at your local store where curbside delivery can take place. Remember, this pickup option isn’t the same as BOPIS (Buy online and pay in store), where customers enter the actual store.

You’ll also need to have a staff member or two available to keep track of the orders coming in, and make sure they’re ready for when customers arrive.

Other points to keep in mind include:

  • Inventory tracking: Business owners will have to ensure they have a way to sync their online and offline inventory, so they can keep track of curbside orders. An inventory tracking tool will ensure you can actually deliver on customer orders, while still offering your standard delivery services for people who don’t want to use the pickup option.
  • Mobile app: Most companies offering a curbside pickup service during the coronavirus pandemic also implemented a mobile app to ensure they could let customers know when their order was ready. The same app solution can also let your employees know when the customers’ car is in the parking space, ready for them to drop off the order.
  • Customer experience: Even post-pandemic, it’s important to make sure you’re giving your customers the most streamlined experience possible. Everything from sending order confirmation texts to your audience to your customers, to making sure the pickup experience is simple should be top-of-mind for your team.
  • Awareness: So that customers actually use your pickup window and curbside services; small businesses will need to use advertising methods to let users know what’s available.

It may be necessary for some companies to experiment with different text message services, time slots, and POS integrations to make the curbside pickup experience as effective as possible.

Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter is an experienced content creator, news reporter, and blogger specializing in marketing, business development, and technology. Her expertise covers everything from artificial intelligence to email marketing software and extended reality devices. When she’s not writing, Rebekah spends most of her time reading, exploring the great outdoors, and gaming.

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