It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19.
Familiar names like JCPenney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy. Other popular brands like Zara, Nordstrom and Gap have announced they’re closing certain stores for good.
Businesses across the country have been forced to find creative ways to stay open and meet customers’ needs. One method that is proving more effective than others is curbside pickup. It’s a sort of drive-thru for businesses that don’t typically do that.
Business Insider even went so far as to call curbside delivery a pandemic era success. According to Adobe Analytics, the number of curbside delivery orders rose 208% year-over-year during the first 20 days of April.
It’s a practice that’s here to stay too: a survey of over 1,000 consumers found that 87% want restaurants and other brands to continue to offer curbside pickup and other processes that limit the need for in-person visits.
In other words, it’s no longer a “nice to have.” Curbside pickup is now a “must have.”
Here’s what that means for your business and what to consider when setting it up.
With curbside pickup, a customer drives to your storefront, or your “curb,” to pick up a product they’ve bought online or over the phone—without ever having to leave their car.
Not only does it eliminate shipping costs (although some companies offer an additional fee), it also limits person-to-person interactions without compromising on convenience or flexibility.
Here is an overview of what a pickup experience may look like for your store:
1. Your customer places an order over the phone or through your online store
2. You prepare the order
3. You tell the customer when it’s ready for pickup and provide them with any other essential instructions (e.g., your store hours or a phone number to call when they arrive).
4. Your customer comes to pick up their order.
With most curbside drop-off processes, customers drive up, and after verifying the order, an employee places the order directly into the car trunk.
The first consideration when implementing curbside delivery is how to facilitate orders.
Many businesses are advertising curbside pickup on their website and then prompting customers to order online. Here’s an example from a SimpleTexting customer, the Barn Bowl & Bistro.
When you click on the “curbside pickup process” button, you read about the steps involved and can then make an order online.
Other businesses like cosmetics store Nakeah incorporate texting into their curbside delivery process with a text-to-order option.
Some companies like Levis even offer an over-the-phone ordering for pickup in-store.
Next, it’s essential to think of the internal process. You want to determine how you’re going to package products for pickup and notify customers.
For Bluegrass Hospitality Group, they notify them of the pickup time via SMS.
It’s critical to send customers clear instructions on what to do when they arrive and what information they need to bring to verify their order.
Grocery stores and retail stores often ask customers to text or call to inform you they’ve arrived. You should also consider having a staff member available with a list of the orders so they can cross them off once people arrive.
From there you want to decide on your pickup spots. You’ll need to show exactly where people should park to wait for their order. It’s probably a good idea to mark these parking spaces conspicuously.
Finally, you need to decide on how your handoff process works. That mainly means whether employees will place orders directly into the trunks of cars or if they will hand them off to customers with minimal contact.
With people pushed into trying new things that they never imagined, they discover the advantages in many of these new behaviors. In the case of curbside pickup, the positives are plentiful and focus on trends that customers value most these days—time and convenience.