Curbside Pickup Experiences: A New Normal For Retail

For retail businesses, experiences traditionally have been delivered in-store and on owned web channels. But the new normal brought about by COVID led to a dramatic increase in curbside pickup experiences. With 85% of consumers significantly increasing their rate of using curbside pick-up options, and 79% of shoppers saying that contactless pick-up options are “very important” to them, it’s time for retail businesses to step up. Many already have. In fact,  7x more top retailers have started offering curbside pickup options since the end of 2019. But simply having a curbside pickup experience is not enough. 

A curbside pickup option can be useful for retailers and customers alike. It keeps crowds under control in stores and delivers better, more physically distanced experiences. Crucially, however, the curbside pickup experience also allows for instant gratification which shipping does not allow. Chances are high that you have used curbside pickup, whether for a food order, hardware, craft supplies, or another retail product. The rapid expansion demonstrates that doing curbside pickup in some way is easy. The challenge is making it a seamless part of the overall customer experience at your business.

How to Design Better Curbside Pickup Experiences

The growth of curbside pickup and the accompanying “Buy online, pickup in-store” experiences prior to COVID laid a blueprint for its wider adoption. Businesses from foodservice providers like Starbucks to massive retailers like Target had created the ability to order ahead. This allowed customers to walk into the store and get their orders with little to no wait. Since the rise of COVID, it has become even more important to keep stores at low capacity. Curbside pickup solves this problem and keeps customers shopping at your location.

But not everything about curbside pickup experiences is ideal. Customers universally (~100%) miss the experience and instant gratification of impulse purchases in-store. Worse still, in-store product availability earned an average rating of 1.86 out of 5. How can brands overcome these challenges?

To solve the instant gratification challenge, consider posting “Instant-buy deals” near curbside pickup spaces. Then allow customers to order them for immediate delivery to their cars. Whether this experience is coordinated with an owned app, using an SMS fulfillment system, or even if it requires calling into the store, finding a way to answer this customer need is essential.  

Connecting the Curbside Pickup Experience With Other Channels

Curbside pickup is one way to start adapting to the changing retail landscape, but it isn’t enough alone. The importance of the customer experience has only increased in 2020. Combined with the challenges that brands have overcome since the start of 2020, this indicates the need for connected curbside experiences. To accomplish this, brands must connect their systems so that they can offer a seamless experience on any channel.

In practice, this means synching the web with mobile experiences and in-app experiences with store-visits. Once these are connected, brands can use them to influence in-person interactions. This points to something more fundamental than needing to change due to the pandemic. Retail must become laser-focused on meeting customers where they are. When customers want to buy online and pickup in-store, your systems should make it easy. If they want to scan items in-store and have them collected by an associate and brought to their car, that should be an option as well. 

Think Holistically About the Customer Journey

Retail customers want to spend money, despite economic difficulties, but they need brands to be adaptive and responsive to their needs. If your business is trying to deliver better experiences for customers online, in mobile, or even in-store, we recommend reading The Fundamentals of Journey Management. It’s chock full of use-case information and tips to help you make the customer journey at your business even more powerful.