How Does Curbside Pickup Work? Everything You Need to Know
Curbside Pickup / BOPIS / Click & Collect
Curbside pickup goes by different names (BOPIS, click and collect, order for pickup, etc.) and can mean a variety of things depending on who you ask. So what is curbside pickup and how does it work?
What is Curbside Pickup?
In its basic form, curbside pickup is placing an order online — via web or mobile — and then driving to the store to pick it up. Sometimes this means parking, going inside the store, and waiting in a “mobile order” or “online order” queue. Other times, curbside pickup might mean walking up to an outdoor locker, table, or tent where staff verifies your order before handing it to you.
Carside vs Curbside Pickup
The ideal scenario can more accurately be called ‘carside pickup’ since consumers never have to leave their vehicles. Guests park, pop the trunk, and staff sets the order for pickup inside the vehicle.
It’s a quick way to get exactly what’s needed without waiting for the items to be shipped or standing in a long in-store purchase line. The goal is a seamless hand-off on guest arrival that delivers true convenience and saves time.
How Does Curbside Pickup Work?
For Restaurants, Retailers, and Consumers
Sadly, the reality of many curbside pickup experiences is far less convenient, with guests needing to call, text, or more commonly go inside the store to alert staff of their arrival. How restaurants and retailers implement curbside makes all the difference for consumers.
of consumers have used curbside pickup at a restaurant the same or more often than before in the last month.State of What Feeds Us, Vol. III
Timeliness is everything for curbside pickup at restaurants since no one wants soggy fries or melted ice cream. Here are three typical approaches to curbside for restaurants:
- Timing the order: Many restaurants use specific pickup times (11:25 am) or pickup windows (12:00-12:20 pm) to help ensure guests arrive when their order is ready. This places the challenge on the customer to order at just the right time so it’s ready when they arrive at the restaurant.
- Notifying staff on arrival: Guests are tasked with notifying staff via text, calling, or pressing the “I’m here” button in an email or app once they arrive at the restaurant. In this approach, restaurants wait to prepare the food until the customer has already arrived (“I’m here, prepare my order”), but this leaves the customer waiting when the whole point of order for pickup is to quickly grab and go.
- Handing off the order: Customers wait in the parking lot until the staff brings out their order. Sometimes staff will put the order in an exterior “pickup station” which requires the customer to get out of their car and locate the correct order. Other times, the restaurant will ask for car details (make/model/color/license) so a staff member can bring the order directly to the car.
Curbside for retailers is all about operational efficiencies to ensure orders are packed and ready on customer arrival. Grocers have the added challenge of ensuring certain items are kept cold.
- Prioritizing orders: Retailers typically either provide a pickup window (2-4pm) for same-day pickup or offer next day (or week depending on availability) pickup and notify the customer once the order is ready. This first-order-placed-first-order-filled process puts the responsibility on customers to ensure they order far enough in advance to get the order when they need it (especially for groceries). Plus, customers must ensure they have availability during the specified window. While willfully inconvenient for the consumer, some stores will set quotas for certain pickup windows to manage the volume of orders for pick and pack. This leads to consumers fighting for less-than-ideal time slots on any given day.
- Alerting staff on customer arrival: Generally, customers must notify the store when they’ve arrived and what curbside parking spot they’re in (#3) via text, phone call, or possibly in the app. For larger big-box retailers, a staff member may be stationed by the curbside pickup zone with a tablet in hand to verify and match pickup orders to customers. This is still a manual process for staff members and sometimes requires customers to get out of their cars to walk over to the curbside station or worse, walk into the store.
- Handing off the order: Assuming customers have arrived within their allotted window and the order is filled, staff locates the order (e.g. pantry goods plus cold items) and brings it out to the respective curbside spot.
“Customers are coming less often, but they’re buying a lot more while they’re there… The pickup business is a much larger ticket than what you’d see from an in-store shopper.”
– John R. Furner President & Chief Executive Officer-Walmart Walmart, Inc Q2 2020 Earnings Call
Current curbside is failing.
Over 60% of consumers want automated check-in on arrival and staff to bring out the order to the car, yet only 30% of consumers are receiving this experience.Holiday Habits 2020
Speed and convenience are priorities for consumers picking up an online order at the curb. They want and expect an easy, seamless experience.
- Placing the order: Consumers order for pickup either via web or mobile app and select the store location. Details on how and when to pick up the order are typically provided during or after checkout. Some curbside instructions change from store to store, even if it’s the same chain.
- Arriving / checking in at the store: When the customer arrives, they either see a sign with instructions (“text spot # to 65432” or “call 999-999-9999 to let us know you’re here”), or open the app/confirmation email to press “I’m here” button. Often, this button takes them to a webpage (or deep-link) that still requires the customer to provide identifying information such as order #, vehicle details, and/or name. A staff member might be present to verify customer name and order via a tablet. This step could take 5-10 minutes depending on how clear the instructions are and how complex the process.
- Collecting the order: Customers wait for staff to bring out the order to the vehicle or outdoor order pickup station. If the customer isn’t acknowledged and the waiting continues, customers may need to call the store (where staff may or may not answer) or go inside the store to track down a staff member. Consumers have often walked into a store for mobile order pickup, but staffers are unaware of the order itself, leading to heightened frustration.
How to Solve for Curbside Pickup with Technology
Delivering Frictionless Customer Experiences
A successful curbside pickup experience begins with a thoughtful strategy that prioritizes a convenient, simplified hand-off timed to the guest’s arrival. Today, companies that have attempted curbside order pickup have done it in a manual way — cobbling a curbside solution based on existing infrastructure such as dialing into store. For various reasons, including lack of staff training, or inability to identify a mobile or web order, this has been frustrating for consumers.
As companies lay the foundation for ‘carside’ service, it is apparent that technology plays a huge role in not only delivering on the promise of true convenience but also using the moment to attain and solidify repeat customers. In short, an ideal curbside experience can yield greater customer lifetime value (CLTV) if done right.
A true frictionless pickup is where customers place the order (usually via the mobile app), arrive and park while the order is set in their trunk, then go.
Additionally, brands should focus on solutions that can facilitate a “fill-order-based-on-arrival” approach, not a first-order-placed-first-order-filled process. Restaurants, grocers, and retailers need the right tech stack and approach to bring it all together.
Brand’s App (App/SMS) + Location
A successful curbside pickup experience starts off-premises with the mobile app (or website). Customers choose “curbside pickup” at checkout and then select the appropriate location. The brand then provides order confirmation (in-app or via SMS) with any necessary directions.
On arrival, the customer is automatically check-in and receives a push notification with confirmation and any relevant directions (i.e. “Sit tight, a staff member will be right out with your order.”)
POS / In-store Screens + Location
Use location (SDK embedded in the mobile app) to understand the customer’s ETA and fire off kitchen tickets so the order is fresh and ready on customer arrival. This improves staff efficiency by allowing orders to be prioritized based on customer arrival and minimizes customer waiting.
Staff is instantly alerted when the customer parks onsite and can promptly deliver the order carside to the customer. Accurate location technology enables the check-in to be fully automated without the customer (or staff) taking any action.
Curbside Pickup Continues Beyond COVID-19
In addition to being convenient, curbside pickup keeps staff and guests safe by allowing for contactless interaction. COVID-19 prompted restaurants and retailers across industries to implement (or enhance) some variation of curbside pickup.
What began as a safety precaution is now becoming a core aspect of consumer behavior as more and more consumers experience the convenience of picking up an online or mobile order without leaving their vehicle.
“What I think some people miss about [curbside] is it started off as a safety piece. People wanted it because they didn’t want to come in contact with anyone else. It’s now becoming a convenience piece…”
– Edward Stack, Chairman & CEO, Dick’s Sporting Goods
Getting Started Is Easy
Curbside pickup is essential for restaurants and retailers moving forward. Thankfully, it’s easy to get started. Learn how Bluedot can power a seamless curbside experience for your customers in just 3 simple steps.
Embed Bluedot SDK
Bluedot SDK (software developer kit) is embedded in a brand’s mobile application.
Marketers and developers alike can easily set virtual geofences (in any shape) around a curbside area via our map-based UI.
Launch Curbside Pickup
Tap into robust integrations and webhooks to start powering a seamless, time-saving curbside experience for customers.
Curbside gives people time back, and I think it’s going to continue.
Speak with one of our location experts today to see Bluedot’s award-winning geofencing technology in action.
It’s proven, scalable, and flexible.