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Curbside pickup is a self-delivery method in which customers drive to a warehouse, store, or pickup location to pick up items purchased online. It’s similar to click and collect, except customers don’t need to leave their car. Instead, when the customer arrives, your staff brings the order to their vehicle like curbside pickup restaurants often do. A recent Adobe Analytics report mentions that curbside delivery has increased by 208% during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the benefits of this service will undoubtedly last long after the pandemic and become an indispensable retail process. If this is a new concept to you, this article can help you get started. We’ll explain “What is curbside pickup?” and how it works in your store operation.

What is curbside pickup?

What is curbside pickup?

Curbside pickup, or roadside pickup is a self-service buy online, pickup in store method. In general, it starts when a customer purchases goods online, usually from a retailer’s website, mobile app, or over the phone. Then, order fulfillment staff will pick, pack, and notify customers to drive to a designated area outside your store when the items are ready. When incoming customers arrive, an order-carrying employee brings the order to the customer’s vehicle at the curb.

All types of industries can benefit from curbside pickup, including curbside pickup restaurants, pet stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, and electronics and computer stores. In addition, businesses that previously struggled with a lack of infrastructure, such as retail stores and grocery stores, are also starting to roll out the service. They can designate nearby parking spaces in the curbside pickup area.

Does curbside pickup definition sound simple? Let’s dig deeper on how a curbside pickup works and the logistics required for it to work in the next section.

How does curbside pickup work?

How does curbside pickup work?

Curbside pickup involves multiple parties with different roles. It all has to be seamlessly coordinated from one centralized platform. The right technology can solve this challenge and turn curbside delivery into an efficient and profitable performance model. Here’s how curbside pickup works:

  • Retail websites use real-time inventory information and display pick-up stores where stock is available.
  • Customers choose a store that is convenient for them to pick up and place orders.
  • The system sends a notification to the selected store so that the staff knows and prepares the order.
  • After the order has been packed and stored in a place dedicated to roadside pickup, customers receive SMS or email notifications that their order is ready for pickup.
  • Customers drive to their chosen store and wait outside for your staff to deliver the goods to their car.
Curbside pickup process on POS

When offering curbside pickups, retailers often have to deal with online tracking and designated pickup locations. Thus, you can do curbside pickup on POS to streamline payment processing, keep optimal inventory levels, manage pickup orders efficiently, and deliver on-time. There are many things a POS system can enhance your curbside pickup services:

  • Giving your online customers a reliable curbside pickup option by synchronizing physical store inventory with the online store
  • Suggesting your store staff to select, prepare, and fulfill order effectively
  • Allocating goods and expected quantities of pickup orders automatically
  • Directing your customer’s vehicle to the optimal parking spot

From there, POS can integrate roadside pickup into your omnichannel strategy to maintain store operation from online to offline and increase your retail profit margin.

Benefits of using curbside pickup

Benefits of curbside pickup

The best benefit of curbside pickup is that your customers don’t even have to leave their vehicle. Major retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, Nordstrom, CVS, and Target were the first to apply curbside delivery. They believe in its importance to the future of customer experience. Moreover, curbside pickup is an effective way for retailers to enhance their omnichannel retail strategy and improve customer convenience. Other benefits of curbside pickup include:

1. Increase sales and brand loyalty

Customers appreciate the efficiency and favor curbside pickup. According to a Salesforce report, U.S. retailers offering curbside options increased their online sales by 52% in 2020 compared with the same period last year. In essence, curbside pickup is synonymous with convenience.

In addition, most customers won’t purchase from a retailer again after receiving damaged goods. Occasionally, goods may be damaged in transit. However, curbside pickup minimizes problems before the customer receives the goods. For example, curbside food pickup allows customers to visually check their order and confirm that they are satisfied with it before driving away.

2. Strengthen social distancing

Roadside pickup offer contactless delivery during social distancing

Curbside pickup ensures your customers and employees adhere to social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling a contactless delivery. More than 90% of respondents say curbside pickup is convenient and safe, according to the National Retail Federation’s Spring 2020 Consumer survey. For example, it minimizes person-to-person interaction and customers feel more secure in their vehicles.

3. Minimize order fulfillment delays

Customers always want their items on hand as quickly as when they pay. However, the pandemic caused delays in-home deliveries. Curbside pickup means customers receive goods faster. For example, customers can quickly stop by for curbside food pickup. In addition, customers can get their stuff the same day they order it instead of waiting for the goods to arrive on their doorstep. As a result, most retailers with curbside pickup have seen increased sales.

Thus, modern retailers should offer curbside delivery options to draw them away from competitors during the pandemic. It ensures your business is up and running, bringing convenience to your customers.

4. Create a seamless customer experience

Roadside pickup create a seamless customer experience

A seamless experience is a new retail service trend and curbside pickup can improve customer experience. Customers can get all the benefits of a retail service without having to enter a brick-and-mortar or compromising the contactless safety of them and your employees. It allows customers to conveniently shop online and maintain the retail interaction they are already familiar with.

Moreover, people’s lives today are much busier. Therefore, customers don’t have time to watch and wait in line. Fortunately, curbside delivery allows customers to arrange their time to pick up purchases into their busy schedule.

5. Reduce delivery cost

Curbside pickup can be a cheaper alternative to delivery. For customers, it’s an alternative to paying for delivery-on-demand brands like Uber Eats, Shipt, and Doordash. Thus, more and more retailers offer roadside pickup instead of free shipping. As a result, you and your customers will spend less on shipping fees and save on packaging costs.

As a store owner, you can almost eliminate logistics and delivery manpower with this service.

6. Take advantage of retail space

Curbside delivery is beneficial for retailers and restaurants

Curbside pickup restaurants are essential because no one wants melted ice cream or soggy fries. However, curbside pickups aren’t just for roadside food stores. It’s also beneficial for retailers and restaurants in shopping malls, where orders are strictly fulfilled by simply picking up items. According to Symphony RetailAI, 77% of retailers plan to cut back on in-store space dedicated to curbside delivery and click and collect services. Over the next 5 years, the bottom line will be more local, with retailers offering more personalized delivery options.

Thus, we’ll distinguish between curbside pickup and click and collect in the next section to help you choose a more suitable delivery method for your retail store.

Curbside pickup vs. Click and collect

Curbside pickup vs. Click and collect

After understanding “what is curbside pickup?”, you’ll find it’s not much different from click and collect. Both are popular delivery methods for online purchase, pick up at the store. Both require retail staff to pick and pack orders. However, the main difference is labor costs after the order is packed. Click and collect significantly reduce this cost as customers enter the store to pick up the items themselves. In contrast, roadside pickup often requires a delivery coordinator, in which customers line up outside the store and your staff bring the order to customers.

To help you better understand, we make a comparison table between curbside pickup vs. click and collect.

Curbside pickup

Click and collect

Safety with social distancing

Yes

Yes

Last-mile cost saving for retailers

Yes

Yes

Sales and loyalty impact

2x sales increase

4x repurchase if waiting time is under 2 minutes

Waiting time for customers

8–12 minutes

30 seconds or less

Contactless returns

Limited availability with substantial wait time

Efficient process —customers can return within 2 minutes

Final thoughts

Curbside pickup has been a popular and convenient delivery option for customers during COVID-19, and started to become a new way of life after that. Offering curbside delivery can boost your business and generate revenue even during social distancing. And your customers will thank you for a safe and contactless alternative to in-store shopping. Thus, you may fall behind if you don’t offer curbside pickup.

However, when implementing curbside pickup, you need to ensure seamless inventory and resources between your online and physical store, synchronizing pick-up order information and schedule. Thus, a modern POS system is vital to engage curbside pickup in your omnichannel strategy.

Jeng Nguyen

Author Jeng Nguyen

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