The pandemic-fueled rise in e-commerce not only increased the volume of doorstep deliveries, it also sparked a boom in curbside pickups. With lockdowns and social distancing norms coming into force, consumers switched to online shopping and opted to pick their food and groceries up from the storefront. Several big brick-and-mortar stores started offering select locations as pickup points purely as a COVID safety measure. According to a Digital Commerce 360 report in 2020, close to 44% of the top 245 retailers in the U.S. offered curbside pick to their customers.
What is Curbside Pickup?
Curbside pickup is a service where customers arrive at a predetermined location to pick up the products that they’ve ordered online. This location may be outside the store or a pickup point provided by the retailer. While ordering online the customer is prompted to select their pickup point of choice from a list of locations. A curbside pickup is made when customers pick the purchased product ordered without stepping into the store.
How does Curbside Pickup work?
When the order is ready, a notification is sent to inform the customer that their parcel is ready for curbside pickup from their preferred location. The customer arrives at the pickup location and shows the order number to the designated staff who then matches it with the order number in the OMS (Order Management System) and then hands over the product to the customer.
What are the benefits of Curbside Pickup?
Curbside pickup’s popularity has grown on the back of several advantages it provides for both online customers and retailers.
Convenience and Flexibility
Curbside pickup allows customers - the flexibility to get products at their convenience. They no longer have to wait for their deliveries. Scheduling a curbside pickup can be easily done online from the comfort of the customer's home and with the click of a button.
Reduced Operational Costs
By enabling curbside pickup options and allowing customers to pick up their goods from designated locations, retailers can immediately make huge savings on shipping costs and lower their operational costs. The money saved can be always channeled into improving customer experience.
Guaranteed Order Fulfillment
With curbside pickups, retailers can ensure that order fulfillment happens. When making deliveries, there is a risk of the customer not getting purchased goods on the first attempt. This can directly affect brand loyalty. Curbside pickups make life much easier for not only the customers but the retailers too.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Curbside pickup enables retailers to provide customer satisfying experiences. There’s a risk of damage whenever goods are being delivered to customers – curbside pickups take the possibility of goods being tampered with out of the picture. Moreover, customers can thoroughly check their orders at the pickup point and convey any grievances or make changes on the spot. Curbside pickups help in boosting customer experience and strengthening brand loyalty.
What are the challenges of Curbside Pickup?
One of the main challenges for retailers is making curbside pickup available at all their locations. Sometimes the number of such pickup points might vary from area to area resulting in different experiences for customers located in different locations.
Establishing curbside pickup means the retailers must manage the inventory for both in-store pickups, deliveries, and curbside. The supply chain lines are under pressure with customers constantly demanding similar products across all modes of fulfillment at the same time. Micro-fulfillment centers help in resolving inventory issues with dark stores - warehouses specifically constructed for quick order fulfillment. Such dark stores exclusively serve curbside pickup consumers. However, this method demands massive upfront costs.
Managing Customer Expectations
Curbside pickups can swiftly turn into a nightmare for the customers if it’s not managed well by the retailers. Once the customer arrives to pick up their goods, they expect a frictionless experience. Long queues or high package load times can leave customers frustrated with the curbside pickup experience.
Staff Training and Resources
If retailers seek to provide top customer service with curbside pickup facilities then they must train their staff to handle customers at the pickup points. A dispatcher needs to be attached to the facility who can arrange and hand over the correct packages to the respective customers. Earmarking staff and training them specifically for curbside pickups can sometimes throw its own set of challenges with the retailers opting for an omnichannel fulfillment strategy that demands staff attention from loading and managing deliveries and guiding in-store customers.
How do you ensure effective Curbside Pickup service?
Proper Inventory Management
The in-store inventory must be accurately reflected on the retailer’s app and website. The customers shouldn’t end up buying products that are not available for curbside pickup. It’ll be a terrible experience for customers to purchase a product online and then be told that it’s out of stock at the curbside pickup. Real-time inventory tracking can enable retailers to provide a consistent experience to the customers.
Keeping Customers informed
From the time the customers complete checkout, they must be regularly informed about the status of their order. The updates must mention the pickup address and information on when the order is ready for pickup.
Retailers should also outline the curbside pickup process and mention whether showing the order ID on the app is enough to receive the purchased items or an ID needs to be shown. The more information the retailers provide to the customer, the more chances they have of winning their loyalty.
Earmark fixed space
Retailers must earmark enough space for smooth curbside pickups. The packages must be arranged and distributed from a dedicated space. Signs must be installed guiding the customers towards the curbside pickup zone. Curbside pickup should also be within an area that is separate from regular walk-in customers.
Having the right technology in place is a must when setting up curbside pickups mode of order fulfillment. Stores must have accurate, real-time inventory technology that keeps managers and customers informed of product availability and potential delays. Tech-enabled platforms can allow retailers to optimize store fulfillments, manage inventories during times of peak demand and communicate status updates with consumers.