Curbside Pickup: How to Adapt to the New Normal in Ecommerce

December 19, 2022

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The ongoing pandemic has popularized curbside pickup — 85% of shoppers have significantly increased curbside pickup orders compared to pre-pandemic.

Curbside pickups remain a popular fulfillment choice even as lockdowns and restrictions fade, mainly because your customers save on shipping costs.

Shoppers may not have time to visit a store location, choose items, and wait in line to pay. 

Curbside pickup offers a middle ground where customers can place an order online and pick up deliveries without entering a physical store. It’s essentially like a drive-thru but for retail stores.

In this guide, we answer what curbside pickup is and how it works.

What Is Curbside Pickup?

Curbside pickup is an ecommerce website order fulfillment method that enables customers to order online and pick up the delivery from a convenient location — such as your retail store, warehouse, or another location.

Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup are similar in that customers can order online and pick up from the store under both methods. However, curbside pickups require you to provide the delivery outside of your store — usually to the customer’s car.

The customer doesn’t need to walk into your store. A staff member brings the order outside to the shopper at a specific time. That way, your customer saves on shipping and won’t have to wait at home to receive their items.

A 2021 study reveals that 50.7% of the top 1,000 retail chains offered curbside pickup. You don’t want to miss out on this popular order fulfillment method.

But before implementing it, let’s discuss how curbside pickup works.

How Does Curbside Pickup Work?

Now that you know what curbside pickup is, here are five steps to fulfill curbside pickup orders:

1. Order placement: The customer orders from your online store and selects curbside pickup as the delivery method at checkout.

2. Order confirmation: Once the customer confirms the order and makes the payment, you receive order details, including the customer’s preferred delivery method. You also receive details like their preferred pickup location and time slot.

3. Contact details: Share contact details with customers so they can let you know when they’re about to arrive for the pickup.

4. Pack the order: Go through your inventory, find the ordered item, and package it for delivery.

5. Pickup: The customer informs you they’re about to reach the location. A staff member reaches the pickup point and hands over the package.

The curbside pickup process is fairly simple, but you still need to tie a few loose ends.

For example, you may need to sort curbside pickup orders according to pickup times. You might also want to separate curbside orders from others to plan your staff’s daily duties.

Handling these tasks manually can be time-consuming, but you can automate many tasks in the process using an order management system (OMS).

Why Should You Offer Curbside Pickup?

It’s easy to see why curbside pickup is a great option for your shoppers once you know what curbside pickup is. You have more reasons to offer curbside pickups in addition to no shipping costs, though. These include:

Speed and convenience: Customers can pick up the delivery the same day they place the order without waiting for the delivery service to fulfill the order over the next few days.
It’s also more convenient because customers won’t have to wait for the delivery at home. They can pick up their order at their convenience.

No shipping: Customers won’t have to pay for shipping with curbside delivery, and you’ll be able to process orders faster. Curbside pickup service is a win-win.

Improved customer experience: Shoppers can pick up orders on their way to work or when running errands. The curbside pickup option also helps customers maintain social distance.

Encourages shopping locally: Curbside pickup encourages online shoppers to buy from local stores.

Minimal social interaction: In a world where people want contactless deliveries, curbside pickup is an option that allows receiving your order without interacting with a delivery person at your doorstep.

Minimal product damage: Products are sometimes damaged during delivery, even when packaged well. Since curbside pickup removes the need for the package to travel, it’s inherently less prone to damage.

What To Consider Before Offering Curbside Pickup

Knowing what curbside pickup is may be a good starting point, but you have more click-and-collect challenges to consider before implementing curbside pickup as an option:

1. Do You Have Enough Staff?

You can’t send a store employee that’s attending to a customer outside to deliver an order. If you experience a sudden spike in demand, your curbside pickup customer might have to wait, which doesn’t translate to a good experience.

2. Do You Have a Designated Area to Accommodate a Customer’s Vehicle?

You need to have enough space for customers to wait for a staff member to bring the order to them. It may only be a few minutes, but your customers don’t want to be bothered by other honking cars.

Many stores use a parking lot as a pickup location, so customers never have to worry about not getting a parking spot. However, if you don’t have enough parking spaces, you might need to find a nearby public place where it’s feasible and practical to deliver packages.

3. Do You Have the Right Tools?

Managing orders that need to be delivered via multiple channels — in-store pickup, last-mile deliveries, and curbside pickups — can become overwhelming. You might find yourself juggling multiple tasks, from monitoring inventory to processing orders.

The result? Slow deliveries and poor customer experience. Before you start offering curbside pickup, ensure you have the right tools.

For example, an OMS can help streamline the entire process. You can manage inventory, sales channels, and order statuses from a single tool, making it easier to deliver an excellent customer experience.

Final Thoughts

As curbside deliveries grow in popularity, you have an opportunity to eliminate an extra step in the order fulfillment process. Shipping can be expensive for customers and tedious for you. 

Curbside pickups empower you to accept online orders without worrying about shipping.

Curbside deliveries do require extra caution. You don’t want to accept orders for out-of-stock items or realize you didn’t process an order when the customer reaches the pickup location.

About the author

Frank is the Chief Product Officer at Orckestra, powered by mdf commerce. Orckestra is digital commerce software provider that creates solutions for leading retailers and brands. In his role, he leads product management and development, providing retailers with the tools to create unique shopping experiences and increase efficiency in their omnichannel commerce execution.

Frank Kouretas

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