Post-COVID Retailers Need to Offer Curbside Pickup

Post-COVID Retailers Need to Offer Curbside Pickup


Now that stay-at-home orders are changing and many stores are reopening, shopping expectations and behaviors have shifted. For example, customers are opting for safer shopping options to avoid human contact as much as possible, including curbside pick-up and buying online/picking up in the store (BOPIS).

Retailers are having to adapt quickly to these changes in customer expectations to recover from being closed for several weeks and thrive through reopening and beyond.

Convenience Is Important For Shoppers

Price, quality, and brand are all important to shoppers. However, one of the biggest factors in purchasing behavior is convenience. The National Retail Federation reported that 9 out of 10 customers are more likely to make a choice based on convenience. This is especially true as retailers continue to adjust to restrictions brought on by COVID-19. Curbside pick-up, for example, has quickly transformed from a simple perk to a public health necessity as shoppers are trying to follow social distancing guidelines. 

But shoppers have actually been expecting convenience and flexibility for some time. The first reported curbside pickup came even before drive-throughs. Back in 1921, a Texas store called The Pig Stand introduced the concept of curbside delivery. Its customers could drive up, eat, and pay, all without exiting their automobiles. A drive-through window was added shortly thereafter.

Streamlining Curbside Pickup with Seamless Communication

A positive curbside experience begins with a clear communication plan. Customers need to know details about your process and likely want notifications along the way. Consider these communications best practices for curbside success:

  • Send text alerts or call customers when purchases are ready for pickup.
  • Send clear instructions to customers about what to do when they arrive and what information they’ll need to verify their order. You might also consider asking customers to call when they arrive and remain in their vehicles until their pickup order is ready. In October 2019, the Financial Times reported fast-food chains were experimenting with camera identification to speed up the sales process by customizing menu boards based on identifying customers from their license plates. 
  • Set up pickup spots indicating exactly where people should park to wait for their order. If customers are standing in line, retailers should mark the ground and/or place signs to encourage six-foot physical distancing.
  • Request that customers arrive with only the minimum necessary number of occupants in their vehicle.
  • Decide whether employees will place orders directly into the trunks of cars or if they will hand them directly to customers. Let customers know ahead of time so they can prepare too, as some customers might have to open their trunks manually.
  • Establish whether you want to take payment upfront or offer payment upon pickup, and be sure to communicate these options to your customers.
  • If possible, leverage your loyalty programs to offer customized perks to shoppers.

Making Curbside Service Work For Retailers

From a retailer’s perspective, adding a curbside pickup option can increase online sales and reduce shipping costs. To optimize these benefits, retailers should have a comprehensive knowledge of inventory, as well as a well-documented curbside service process. This process, which includes taking the items from the store or backroom, packing, and/or delivering to the customer car, will be simple enough to incorporate into current employees’ existing assigned tasks. 

Scheduling tools can help keep, track, and plan out employee schedules, including vacation days, preferred shifts, etc. You might also want to identify employees who have the ability to process orders quickly. Keeping staff excelling in areas they already do well in and tracking these metrics can help identify when or where improvements can be made so staff can easily perform all tasks.

When customer behaviors drastically shift, retailers should be prepared to creatively pivot to provide clear, easy-to-follow processes. To learn more, subscribe to our eNewsletter or talk to one of our sales consultants today.

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