Social distancing now plays an important role in everyday life and business owners have had to come up with new ways to provide services and products to deal with the current environment.
Retail business owners have faced some of the biggest challenges during the coronavirus pandemic and many of them have started offering curbside pickup services to accommodate their customers and keep sales coming in.
Changing the structure of a business can be a daunting task – especially when many retailers and restaurants have never dealt with online orders.
Business owners can often face unexpected circumstances and the COVID lockdown forced many to come up with creative ways to continue to offer their products and services to their customers.
Let’s explore how retailers have adapted to the pandemic and how a business owner can accommodate their customers by offering one of the most successful new forms of product delivery – curbside pickup.
What is Curbside Pickup?
Curbside pickup is a service where a customer can make a purchase online and pick up the order at a convenient location – whether it be delivered to your car outside, gathered at a warehouse, or literally picked up at the curb.
This service has been picking up traction and has become a standard retail strategy for many big box stores including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and many other large retailers.
While the pandemic has created a large demand for curbside pick-up, it is not actually a new concept at all.
The curbside pickup concept dates all the way back to 1921 when carhops began to deliver food to customers in their automobiles. Two years later, the concept was picked up by A&W and began to gain popularity until the mid-1960s, when fast food establishments started to implement more drive-through services.
Now, curbside pick-up looks a bit different than the nostalgic roller skates, burgers, and milkshakes. It is now a necessary component for a restaurant or retail business to thrive when social distancing plays such a prominent role in everyday life.
How Can a Business Get Started with Curbside Pickup?
1. Have a place for customers to order online.
To implement curbside pickup for your business, you will need a website or third-party online service to allow customers to place orders online.
2. Offer the option for customers to pay online in advance.
The ability for a consumer to prepay for their order can allow for the curbside pickup to work seamlessly and efficiently. If a customer pays for the order online, then they can simply choose the place and time to pick up the order without wasting any time or dealing with any business transactions in person.
This is especially useful with mandatory or recommended social distancing in your area.
3. The transaction is completed, and details are sent to the business to prepare the order.
Once the order is complete, you will get a notification through your method of choice – whether it be through email, text, or a POS (point-of-sale) system. With their contact information, you can now send them any additional details or instructions for their curbside pickup.
4. The customer arrives to collect the order.
At this point, there are a few different methods of delivery that can be used to accommodate the customer.
For a restaurant, you could have a designated spot in the dining area where customers can pick up their order that has their name and order details attached to the takeout. It is common for a restaurant to include a side stash of napkins and condiments for customers to pick up alongside their order – which can eliminate the need to come in contact with staff.
A retail store typically works in the same manner but is more defined with the “click and collect” online ordering system. This has already been a tried-and-true method for larger retailers like Costco and Walmart and is often used for larger products like a television set or furniture.
A grocery store implements the curbside pickup strategy by holding a designated pickup area before the store entrance and often saves specific times for senior citizens or people with disabilities. It is also common for a supermarket to have a drive-thru as well to accommodate more people at one time.
A fast-food restaurant commonly uses the curbside pickup method with an app that instructs users to wait outside the store until an employee comes out with the completed order. In fact, some businesses like chick fila, take advantage of this easily accessible system and sends customers free items by email once they sign up for the application.
Regardless of what business you may be working with, just about any brick-and-mortar store can benefit from the curbside pickup strategy.
What are the Benefits of Curbside Pickup?
There is no doubt that curbside pickup is a safer and more convenient option for customers to follow the guidelines of social distancing. Aside from the obvious fact that it is an essential strategy following a pandemic, there are many other benefits that will make it a valuable long-term form of delivery for your business.
1. It minimizes social interaction.
All pandemic aside, there is something that should be said about the idea of allowing customers to make a purchase without having to interact with others. People appreciate the ability to complete an order online without having to speak with someone over the phone or in person.
2. It is FAST.
Amazon has completely transformed the way people shop online and now everyone has become accustomed to receiving their items with 48 hours of ordering online. With curbside pickup, people can grab their order without any shipping and hardly has any turnaround time – making it one of the quickest and most efficient methods for ordering.
3. No shipping fees.
Shipping can be a cumbersome expense for a business, especially when offering free shipping is an online standard. With curbside pickup, everybody wins. Not only can a customer pick up their item at their convenience, but your business can save money on shipping. While this may not be much from a single order, it can add up to substantial savings with many orders coming in each day.
4. Customer satisfaction.
How many times have you ordered something online only for it to arrive damaged or incomplete? The process may involve filling out a return form, speaking with customer service, printing out a new shipping label, and waiting an additional week for a new order to arrive. Not only is this a lengthy and costly process, but it can be upsetting for a consumer to have to go through that whole process. No one wants to waste their time returning a mistake that was out of their control.
Curbside pickup allows customers to review an order and make sure that everything is correct before taking the items home.
If you are interested in getting started with curbside pickup, here are some good ideas you should consider that could make your service more efficient and streamlined.
Ideas for an Efficient Curbside Pickup Service
If you are trying to come up with the most efficient way to offer curbside pickup to your customers, there are some tips you should first consider.
1. Have a dedicated employee for curbside delivery.
It is essential to have a strong labor force to keep up with the demand for curbside pickup. If your business is considering delivering orders to customers outside of the store or in their vehicles, you must take into account the time it takes for an employee to prepare and hand-deliver the order. Having a dedicated and trained employee for the curbside delivery process will speed up the process and make it more efficient.
2. Have clear instructions for customers.
When sending instructions to your customers for pickup, you should have everything listed out as specific and clear as possible. Even with the best instructions in the world, people will find a way to get confused and the blame could come back to your business. Having a clear set of instructions keeps this confusion to a minimum and will save you time with a more streamlined process.
3. Keep Inventory Up to Date
Out of stock inventory is one of the main concerns and challenges with curbside pickup. If many people are ordering curbside at the same time, they may be choosing the same products – which can create problems when items run out of stock. This is a common issue with grocery stores and many chains have decided to give customers an option to either allow the store to include a replacement or a refund if the item is out of stock. For smaller retailers, this can be avoided by a strong inventory system that can update stock when it changes and to mark items as low-on-stock to warn customers that the order may not be filled completely.
4. Use Storage Lockers
Implementing storage lockers for your curbside delivery can reduce costs and save time for both customers and merchants. A storage locker can allow you to deliver the product to its designated spot immediately once it is ready – making it a more streamlined and efficient process. On the other hand, a customer will not have to wait around for delivery once they notify the merchant that they have arrived.
Many grocery stores implement refrigerated lockers so they can work with multiple orders with perishable foods that can be ready for pickup at the same time.
5. Have Designated Parking Spaces
If you are not using storage lockers or dealing with takeout meals, then using designated parking spaces for curbside pickup will keep your customers all in one place for more efficient delivery. These spaces can be located close to the entrance, so an employee does not have to go far to deliver the customer’s order.
Is Curbside Pick Up Right for your Business?
If you are any sort of brick-and-mortar store, you can benefit from the growing demand for this popular strategy. Regardless of if you work in retail, food and beverage, or grocery, curbside pickup will allow you to accommodate many potential customers that want an easy form of ordering and want to practice social distancing.
The first step to getting started with curbside pickup is to build an online asset where customers can order online – which could be through your own website or a third-party application.
If you are looking for additional ideas, here are some big-box retailers that successfully implement curbside pickup.
Businesses that Excel at Curbside Pickup
Here are some notable businesses that can provide some inspiration for beginning with curbside pickup.
Walgreens uses an App with a simple interface to allow customers to make a quick order ready to pick up in as little as 30 minutes. They give the customer a ton of flexibility by allowing them to pick up in-store, at the drive-thru, or curbside.
Best Buy has their Contactless Curbside Pickup program which allows customers to order through the app or website and have an associate deliver the goods right to their vehicle in the parking lot. This is helpful for people that want to make large electronic purchases like a television.
Chick-fil-A also takes advantage of an easy-to-use app that allows customers to choose and customize their orders for curbside pickup. Most locations will now have designated parking spaces for curbside pickup so a customer knows exactly where to go for an associate to bring out their meal.
Chilis Grill and Bar
Chilis Grill and Bar has been using the curbside pickup strategy long before the pandemic and does it well with their intuitive application. Customers can order online and pull up to their designated parking spot and simply tap a button to let the staff know that they have arrived.
Aldi Grocery Store
Aldi has created a specific subdomain to host their online shop – available for most locations in the US. Simply shop for your favorite products, choose your desired timeframe, and place your order. You can then pull into one of their blue curbside spaces and follow the instructions there for an employee to bring your groceries to your car.
Finding Opportunity with Curbside Pickup
The previous examples are just a few of the thousands of companies that take advantage of curbside pickup for their business. Use these examples and explore other big-box retailers and restaurants to help build your curbside platform – and continue to build up your business.