What Is Curbside Pickup and Why You Need It in 2023

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Welcome to the world of curbside pickup! Aka, the future of your retail business strategy. This article is a must-read for any entrepreneur or small business owner looking to shake up their approach in 2023.

Why trust our advice? Simply because we have years of experience in business and marketing, and our team has conducted extensive research to answer the question “what is curbside pickup?” and then explain how it works, provide you with some top tips, and explore what it means for the future.

What Is Curbside Pickup?

Curbside pickup takes convenience to a whole new level, and has completely revolutionized the world of omnichannel retail. It effectively allows customers to place an order online, and pick up their order by car at a designated location. Sometimes, it can mean the customer doesn’t even have to leave their car at all! Intrigued? Read on…

Nordstrom two delivery options pick up and delivery
Nordstrom offers curbside pickup and delivery, allowing customers to choose what works best for them.

How Does Curbside Pickup Work?

Let’s delve into the process of curbside pickup, and how it works in reality.

Step 1: Customer browses your website or app and adds items to their cart. Clue: here are some top tips for attracting customers to your online store. 

Step 2: Order is placed, including choosing payment method and selecting curbside pickup

Step 3: Order is processed and prepared by staff

Step 4: A notification is issued to let the customer know the order is ready to collect, and where to collect it from

Step 5: Customer collects their order from a designated collection location

Step 6: Happy customer!

Three steps of how Target's curbside pickup works
Target offers curbside pickup so that customers don't even need to leave their car! It's a good idea to clearly explain your pickup process like Target does in this example.

Benefits of Curbside Pickup

We’ve explored how curbside pickup works, now time to explore the benefits. Broadly speaking these can be broken down into benefits for the consumer, and benefits for the business owner. Let’s take a look:

  • Customers never miss a delivery – often customers miss deliveries because they were out, but with curbside pickup there’s no risk of this happening, or products getting lost in transit
  • Save on delivery costs – which can often be expensive for you or off-putting for customers, and tricky to justify for smaller orders
  • Can be quicker – oftentimes orders can be collected the same day
  • More environmentally friendly – many customers will collect their orders while completing other errands, or by foot or public transport, and it means fewer delivery vehicles are on the roads
  • Increased customer loyalty – once one curbside pickup has been completed successfully, customers are more likely to continue shopping in this way. Here are some more ideas for building a strong brand online.
  • Fully scalable – once established it’s simple to scale up curbside pickup operations by hiring more staff or creating a larger pickup area
  • May drive more customers into stores – these may seem contradictory but it’s true! The data shows that many customers will choose curbside pickup then head into your store as well.
True North Yarn checkout showing pickup store locations selector
Customers value having choice over their order. This checkout example from True North Yarn shows how customers can customize their delivery options.

Curbside Pickup Top Tips

The key to a successful curbside pickup operation is to get yourself organized. Here are some top tips which the most successful business owners take advantage of.

Firstly, it’s important to have a robust system in place to track inventory. With different types of inventory moving from warehouses through to store, packaging, and collection, things can become complicated without a clear system. We recommend using software to help you with this, and ensure all staff members are trained up in using it.

Next, really think about the customer experience. For example, there’s nothing more frustrating than turning up at the designated pickup location, only to find it empty! Or, sometimes it’s not clear where the collection area actually is. To avoid this, you need to clearly label and brand the collection area, and develop a way for customers to notify you of their arrival. Consider adding a button to your collection emails, allowing customers to click “I’m here” once they’ve arrived.

True North Yarns product page featuring details on pickup options
On True North Yarn's product page, you can find a helpful message that pickup is available, along with address details and a timeframe.
True North Yarn checkout page pickup address details
True North Yarn does a great job of giving customers all the information they need to pickup their order, including store address.

It’s also a smart idea to have specially-trained staff who specialize in curbside pickup. Consider giving them badges or uniforms to make it really clear that they’re there to help with pickup orders, and make them experts at troubleshooting any issues relating to orders.

A final top tip is to think about the way you prioritize orders. You can do this by considering the type of order – for example perishable goods such as groceries will be more time critical. You can also ask customers to select an ideal collection time when they place the order, giving you a specific window in which to have the order ready.

Find Out More

Interested in exploring different delivery solutions for your business to cut out slow supply chains? Check out our article that explains How Just-In-Time Delivery Works for Ecommerce

The Future of Curbside Pickup

Curbside pickup grew exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic, by 208% according to some sources. This is largely because it was seen as a safer alternative to shopping in stores. Yet with the worst of the pandemic over, curbside pickup is not going anywhere. Old habits die hard, and many consumers have continued to use curbside pickup services, drawn by the convenience, experience, and cost-savings.

What does the future hold for curbside pickup? We believe it has a clear role to play in the modern world of ecommerce. Going forwards, the most successful businesses will be those that listen to their customers and offer them the convenience and choice they crave.

Gazing into our crystal balls, we also anticipate more and more business sectors will adopt the curbside pickup model. It may have started with the grocery sector, but we anticipate growth among multiple different sectors such as small business owners, ethical food producers, farmers markets, artists and creators, and more.

Remember, your curbside pickup approach should be considered alongside your broader omnichannel retail strategy. Not all customers are mobile or even have cars, so collection by car is just one of multiple shopping methods you should offer.

Summary

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about curbside pickup. We hope you now feel something of an expert – and are fully clued up on what curbside pickup is and the huge benefits it offers both customers and business owners. Most of all, we hope you feel ready to test curbside pickup out with your own business. Your customers are waiting!

FAQs

A shopping method whereby the customer never has to leave their car! Generally speaking, a consumer places an order online, and collects it from a designated parking lot, warehouse, or retail location.
For customers, it’s all about convenience. It provides greater control over when and how they pick up their orders, plus they can avoid delivery fees. For businesses, curbside pickup is a highly efficient channel that helps to build customer loyalty. It has also been shown to actually drive customers into stores.
No way! The restrictions around Covid-19 introduced curbside pickup to a broader audience, and many of those customers are continuing to use it as their preferred shopping method.
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