It all started in 1921 when the first carhop drive-in restaurant appeared. Now, instead of roller skates and burgers, there’s curbside pickup—the act of picking up online purchases without stepping out of your car. While not entirely the same, one could say it’s the logical and technological extension of carhops.
Curbside pickup service is a recent venture for retailers who want to offer a similar experience to the fast-food chain’s “drive-thru” option and has become an effective way to create an omnichannel retail strategy. Retailers providing this service have noted that many of their stores are on people’s commute routes anyway. A quick one-minute pitstop to grab groceries or an online purchase means getting it instantly instead of waiting days for the delivery to arrive. And the best part is, customers, don’t even have to leave their cars with this pickup service.
WHY IS CURBSIDE PICKUP BUILDING TRACTION?
When it comes to new retail service trends, success often depends on how convenient the service is for customers. And what is curbside pickup, but the essence of convenience? As long as retailers can reasonably afford to offer this service, customers will be willing to pay for it.
Other benefits of curbside pickup include:
- Improved Customer Experience – To be able to visit a retail store like a “drive-thru” makes shopping a breeze. Grocery days where you have multiple stops will now take a fraction of the time.
- Brand Loyalty – Customers support and appreciate expediency. Brands that offer curbside pickup will become synonymous with convenience.
- Low-Cost Delivery – Curbside pickup has been heralded as a cheaper alternative to delivery. Companies can offer this instead of free shipping (which many customers have come to expect). For customers, this is an alternative to paying for online delivery services like Doordash.
WHO IS OFFERING CURBSIDE PICKUP?
Major retailers were the first to throw their support behind curbside pickup. Big players like Nordstrom, Target, and CVS are all offering this service as a way to attract customers away from competition and into their stores. Smaller retailers, on the other hand, are struggling to participate due to the lack of infrastructure.
Restaurants are another group who are increasingly offering this service. Although it works a little differently in this industry, many restaurants designate closer parking spaces as “ten-minute takeout spots.” Once a patron arrives, they call the restaurant, and an employee brings out the carryout order.
BUT IT DOESN’T DRIVE CUSTOMERS INTO STORES
Many shops are hesitant to adopt curbside pickup because it goes against one tenet of consumerism: stores want people inside to see and buy more items. However, this is the wrong way to look at the situation. If every single customer wanted curbside pickup, would you still be hesitant to adopt it? Of course not! You would develop a new strategy to meet this demand.
STREAMLINING CURBSIDE DELIVERY
For companies to offer curbside delivery in an efficient, streamlined manner, they need two main components:
- Labor Force – Shopping for a customer’s order and running it out to the parking lot takes time. This is often why smaller retailers struggle to keep up with the demands caused by curbside delivery, especially when there are only two or three employees present in a store at a given time.
- Updated Inventory – The curbside delivery process can become complicated quickly. For example, if a customer orders ten items for curbside pickup, two of which are out of stock, and one is in a shopper’s cart already, who gets the items? And what about the out of stock items? Inventory information must be available in real time both for the customer shopping online and the employee grabbing the order.
USING PARCEL LOCKERS
For companies who are interested in implementing curbside pickup, using smart lockers can improve efficiency, make online ordering easier, and reduce costs.
- Tracking Orders – When fulfilling several orders at a time, it’s easier to keep track of each order if it has a designated locker. When a customer arrives, they can punch in their unique access code, and leave with their purchase in hand. No time wasted sorting through orders, and the retailer has full visibility over when the order was placed in the locker as well as when it was picked up.
- Refrigerated Lockers for Groceries – Many current curbside pickups involve preparing multiple orders and then having an employee wait outside underneath a canopy until customers arrive at a designated parking spot. For grocery stores, this could mean warming up food that should remain cold. With Parcel Pending lockers, grocery stores can offer their customers refrigerated lockers for perishable orders.
- Combine with Designated Parking – Instead of having employees wait outside for customers to arrive, retailers can change the definition of curbside pickup. Designated parking spots can be positioned near smart lockers. This way, customers can pull up, pick up their order, and drive off.
IS IT RIGHT FOR YOUR COMPANY?
If your company is considering curbside parking, consider this: do you have the resources to do it well? This includes having dedicated employees to shop for and prepackage products for pickup. Stores should also set up a station out front where employees can load customers’ cars when they arrive. And lastly, companies should have the technological infrastructure to update regularly update their store inventory.
These are the keys to success with curbside parking. Providing customers with this service can improve customer relationships and give your business a leg up against competitors.
If your business is looking to adapt your order fulfillment strategy, curbside pick up is the perfect place to start!
- Wikipedia. Carhop. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carhop
- National Retail Federation. NRF study says more online shoppers want free shipping. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/nrf-study-says-more-online-shoppers-want-free-shipping
- Nielsen. Six Factors Driving Consumers’ Quest for Convenience. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/six-factors-driving-consumers-quest-for-convenience