Part I. 12 Ways to Better Promote, Customize, and Streamline Your Curbside Experience

by | May 29, 2020

In these unprecedented times, customers are craving a sense of normalcy. They miss their old routine of eating out and shopping in stores, but retailers and restaurants have quickly moved to expand options to appeal to their customers from a safe distance. While online shopping has been around for quite some time, many customers are opting for other omnichannel options, such as BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) or curbside pickup. 

Even before the restrictions and unease brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, customers felt less anxiety associated with shopping when they bought online and picked up in the store. They were able to decrease time and the amount of contact needed to shop in store. In addition, many customers are deterred by high shipping fees, and since the onset of Amazon Prime and other expedited shipping options, customers often find delivery times of longer than two days to be an unnecessary delay. By enabling them to buy online and pick up in store, or via curbside pickup, customers can have their cake and eat it that same day.  And ensuring that this experience is seamless and efficient has never been more important than it is today (and will be in the months to come). 

While more expansive and efficient omnichannel options can greatly improve your customer experience, don’t forget that there are also perks for businesses too. During the pandemic, many companies have lost customers due to elimination or significant reduction of in-store operations. By introducing curbside pickup, retailers can open an additional revenue stream and leverage local inventory to satisfy customer orders. This saves on shipping costs as well as justifies stores that are not yet able to open to the public. And the access to real-time inventory information across the network benefits both the company and the customer. 

This blog will explore the innovations that retailers and restaurants are employing to meet and exceed customer expectations during this time of incredible change. 

Promote your Omnichannel Offering 

First things first: customers need to be made aware of your BOPIS or curbside services. This can be as simple as making those passing by aware (e.g. storefront banners) or it can more advanced, such as targeted social media ads or other online marketing campaigns. Promotions are a great way to encourage customers to opt in for buying online and picking up in store. Some promotion ideas include: 

  • Email coupons – enticing customers with higher discounts, increased rewards points, or bundles 
  • Charitable donations – allocating a percentage of every sale to a worthy cause or donating supplies to medical professionals 
  • Add-on grocery staples – including a useful item, like hand sanitizer, with a clothing purchase 
  • Coupons upon purchase – giving incentive to return in a short period of time for an additional discount 
  • Customized packaging – reminding customers of BOPIS offerings and health/safety policies right on product packaging or bags 

Customize your Online Experience 

As online or app-based shopping evolves, consumers have developed higher expectations. From the initial browsing, processing, and tracking, online shopping should be quick and simple. Many customers opt out of online purchases if the website or app is hard to follow, slow, or not compatible with their browser. Here are some ideas to not only improve the customer experience for online ordering, but also encourage additional sales: 

  • Easy reorders – using apps (or rewards programs) to record favorite meals or recent shopping lists (e.g. Target or Safeway) 
  • Predictive shopping – providing analytics-based suggestions to shoppers to increase cart size based on other items in their cart 
  • Realtime communication – updating the customer via email, text, or app on the status of their order (e.g. Domino’s Pizza Tracker) 
  • Digital assistants – ordering through in-home devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home is done by some restaurants now (e.g. Wingstop or Panera) and is ripe for expansion to more retailers 

Streamline the Curbside Experience 

Just a few months ago, curbside pickup was more heavily adopted at grocery stores and big box retailers. But since the pandemic began, government enforced closings and customer anxiety about entering public spaces has significantly increased the demand across the retail industry. For all of the activities below, there are labor and staffing implications involved with interacting with the customers and transporting goods from the store/restaurant to the customer’s vehicle.  Some considerations to optimize your curbside experience are:  

  • Customer communication. How will the customer indicate their arrival and location? Some retailers are utilizing software, while others may have customers call or text to announce their arrival. In addition, because customers are usually prepaying before arriving at the store, it is easy for retailers (e.g. Nike) to double check IDs through the car window and load items directly into the trunk to maintain contactless delivery.   
  • Minimize curbside wait times.  Whether using geolocation or license plate recognition services to determine when a customer has arrived (e.g. Kroger and KFC, respectively),  or designating parking spots close to the store entrance (e.g. Kohl’s or Home Depot), it is critical that retailers provide a timely experience for their customers, while not impacting their other operations like drive-thrus and delivery areas.   
  • Employee mobility. Employees fulfilling orders are constantly traveling from the store/restaurant to various customer vehicles for curbside pickup offerings. Therefore, integrating as much of the functionality into mobile devices will allow employees to complete these tasks efficiently and in parallel with other in-store duties like answering the phone or completing other orders.   

Conclusion 

The list of innovations that restaurants and retailers are implementing may seem overwhelming, particularly if you’re still in start-up mode with this area of your business. Likewise, not every innovation will be a good fit for every retailer, customer demographic, or geographical location. But the current environment is providing a far more engaged set of customers for testing out new initiatives and functionality than ever before. Therefore, we encourage you to test and learn what works for your business model, company culture, and current capabilities.  

Although these practices may be introduced temporarily during social distancing practices, the increased adoption and improvements in customer experience are likely to encourage a healthier share of omnichannel business over the long run. Retailers may consider permanently adding BOPIS offerings to their stores, but with additional offerings comes additional labor. On that note, our next blog installment on this topic will explore the innovative ways that retailers are developing more efficient and effective in-store processes to support their omnichannel offerings. 

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to Axsium to explore how we can assist with your specific situation. We have helped retailers with analyzing and benchmarking their current processes for inefficiencies, developed custom labor standards for their unique omnichannel offerings and helped determine optimal store staffing levels to ensure the desired customer experience. 

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