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. Although 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 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 these 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 any new retail service trend, its success often depends on how convenient it is for customers. In this case, 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 – The future is here. 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 – In short, customers support and appreciate expediency. Brands that offer curbside pickup will now be synonymous with convenience.
- Low-cost delivery – Curbside pickup has been heralded as a cheap alternative to delivery. Companies can offer this instead of free shipping (which many customers expect now). For customers, this is an alternative to paying for online delivery services like Doordash.
Who is Offering Curbside Pickup
Major retailers have been 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, have been struggling to participate due to the lack of infrastructure.
Restaurants are another group who have been increasingly offering this service. Although it works a little differently in this sector, many restaurants designate close parking as “ten-minute takeout spots.” Once you arrive, you call the restaurant, and they bring out your order.
But It Doesn’t Drive Customers into Stores
Many shops have been hesitant to adopt curbside pickup because it goes against one tenant 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 one of your customers wanted curbside pickup, would you still be hesitant to adopt it? Of course not! You would develop a new strategy to meet this strange demand.
Streamlining Curbside Delivery
For companies to be able to offer curbside delivery in an efficient, streamlined manner, they need two main ingredients:
- Labor force – Shopping for a customer’s order and then running it out to the parking lot takes time. That’s why smaller retailers struggle to keep up with this new demand.
Especially when only two or three employees might be present in a store at one time.
- Updated Inventory – This process can become convoluted quickly 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. This type of information must be available in real time for the customer shopping online and the employee grabbing the order.
Using Parcel Lockers
For companies who are pushing forward with curbside pickup, using smart lockers can improve Efficiency, make online ordering easier, and reduce costs.
- Tracking orders – When filling out several orders at a time, it’s easier to keep track of each order if it has a designated locker. When a customer arrives, employees can punch in their code, and away they go, purchase in hand. No time wasted sorting through orders.
- Refrigerated lockers for groceries – Many current curbside pickups involve prepping multiple orders and then having an employee wait outside underneath a canopy until customers arrive at the parking spot. For grocery stores, this could be warming up food that should remain cold. With Parcel Pending lockers you can have refrigerated lockers for perishables.
- Combine with designated parking – Instead of having employees spend time waiting outside for customers to arrive, another option is to change the definition of curbside pickup. Designated parking spots can be positioned near smart lockers. This way, customers can pull up, pick up, and drive off.
Is it Right For Your Company?
If your company is considering curbside parking, the first point to consider is: Do you have the resources to do it well? This includes having dedicated employees with spare time to shop and prepackage products to be ready for pickup. Stores also need to set up a station out front where employees are prepared to load customers’ cars when they arrive. And lastly, companies need the technological infrastructure to update items’ stock on the fly.
These are the key points to success with curbside parking. If these are all manageable, then 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 may be 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