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Online & Offline Retail: How Does Curbside Pickup Work?

How does curbside pickup work? It comes with both challenges and benefits, and we’re here to explain everything. Keep reading to learn more!

How does curbside pickup work?

Before the internet, and particularly before the breakout of the ongoing global health situation, most consumers had to physically visit stores to purchase goods, especially groceries.


The good, old days, right?


With the advent of online shopping, consumers can now purchase goods from the comfort of their homes. This convenience has made online shopping the preferred method for many consumers.


But customer expectations keep getting higher, and now stores offer curbside pickup services to increase the level of convenience and meet their customers halfway, quite literally.


What is Curbside Pickup?


Curbside pickup aims to create a seamless experience for online shoppers, improving both your team’s performance and customer satisfaction.


Think of it this way: Customers can place an order online and choose a pickup location that is the most convenient for them to pick up their items without any hassle or additional shipping costs.


On your end, you can also improve the customer experience by having designated parking spots and effectively training your employees to deliver results without being overwhelmed.


Besides, if cutting down shipping costs is one of your main business goals, a highly efficient solution is to implement curbside pickup as one of your order fulfillment methods.

Want to know all about in-store and curbside pickup?


Want to know all about in-store and curbside pickup?

What does a typical fulfillment journey look like?


An eCommerce fulfillment process typically involves roughly four main parts: receiving and processing orders, picking and packing items, shipping orders, and returns/exchanges (optional).


How does this all manifest for most eCommerce or omnichannel retail businesses? Here’s a breakdown of the steps to a typical eCommerce order fulfillment process to help you have a better understanding:


Checkout Process


When a shopper visits a retailer’s website, they fill their shopping cart with the items they want to purchase. The shopper then places an order, which is directed to the business’s POS (point of sale) system. Then the system processes each order and sends every one of them to the most relevant warehouse to proceed with the fulfillment.


Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?


Inventory Management


As any online sellers know, keeping accurate inventory levels is vital to the success of the business. If products are out of stock or located in the wrong location, it can lead to long shipping times and unhappy customers.


That’s why it’s so important to keep your inventory updated— in order to ensure that your team can fulfill orders in a timely manner. That often means relying on regional fulfillment centers, micro fulfillment centers, or even a local store, and investing in efficient order management systems, like WeSupply.


Order Processing & Staging


After the customer places an order online, the order processing and staging processes begin. This includes picking up the correct products and packing them for shipping. The shipment is then staged and ready for delivery or pickup.


Fulfilling orders quickly and accurately is crucial to keeping customers happy and maintaining a positive brand reputation. That’s why it’s important to have well-organized fulfillment centers or physical store locations.


Efficiency is key in ensuring that orders are fulfilled quickly and correctly. By streamlining the process, you can help to ensure that your customers are always satisfied with their purchases.


Shipping & Delivery


Once an order is placed, it needs to be picked up from the fulfillment center and shipped to the customer’s address of choice. In some cases, the product may be delivered to a local store for in-store or curbside pickup.


Retailers might turn to a logistics provider to simplify the order fulfillment process. A logistics provider manages the entire process from start to finish, including sourcing products, picking up orders from the fulfillment center, and shipping orders to customers.


Reverse Logistics


The order fulfillment process generally falls into two categories: outbound logistics and reverse logistics.


Outbound logistics refers to the process of getting products from the seller to the customer, whereas reverse logistics refers to the returning of the products from the customer back to the seller or disposition centers.


Returns are part of reverse logistics, which involves collecting the goods from the customer and either delivering them back to the seller or disposing of them. Customers can also return and exchange items in-store to reduce costs and post-purchase anxiety (e.g., “Will my returned item arrive at the right destination?” or “Will I receive my refund/exchange item?”).

What do consumers want in terms of fulfillment services?


Omnichannel fulfillment is all about providing customers with multiple shipping and pickup options. This could mean offering in-store pickup, curbside pickup, home delivery, or a combination of multiple options.


The key is to make sure that your customers have plenty to choose from so that they can find the one that best suits their needs. Here are the most common ones:


In-store pickup


Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (or BOPIS) has especially taken off a couple of years ago due to a global health crisis. This type of click-and-collect service enables online shoppers to pick up their orders in person directly in-store whenever they see fit and to receive their orders quickly.


When offering BOPIS, you should also take BORIS (Buy Online, Return In-Store) into consideration to create a seamless customer journey that covers multiple aspects of reverse logistics as well, in terms of convenience and speed.


Curbside pickup


Although click-and-collect services have been around even before the pandemic, a significant part of omnichannel retailers and eCommerce sites started providing in-person, contactless curbside pickup as a result of social distancing guidelines and safety recommendations.


This is where curbside delivery really begins to shine! For both eCommerce sites and retail stores, it’s important to take a holistic view of the customer experience.


Curbside pickup, therefore, has a number of benefits, such as the following:

  • Retailers can ensure better safety for customers and staff
  • Customers can pick up their orders at their convenience
  • Customer orders are brought right to their vehicles
  • Items arrive faster than with traditional shipping
  • This service is usually free of charge (e.g, no shipping fees)

Same-Day Delivery


Customers nowadays expect fast and convenient shipping, and same-day delivery has become a new standard in the industry, there’s no doubt about it.


Some online shoppers go as far as asking for on-demand delivery to decrease the waiting time as much as possible, and retailers have no other choice but to meet their requirements in order to have a competitive advantage.


Scheduled Delivery


Offering scheduled delivery as an option is another trend to keep an eye on. Most people nowadays have a hectic lifestyle, therefore, planning ahead and consistency are essential for them.


Enabling them to schedule their deliveries will help them know when their order is expected to arrive and stick to a timeline that fits their busy program. Besides, offering estimated delivery times reduces shipping anxiety, ensuring a lower cart abandonment rate.


Curbside Pickup Challenges


It’s no secret that curbside pickup comes with its own set of challenges that, luckily, can be easily overcome.


Using the right tools and having the right processes in place will ensure a smooth experience for both store associates and customers, driving brand loyalty and customer lifetime value in the long run.


Here are three common obstacles you should look out for:


Inventory Tracking & Management


A key element is having a complete overview of all your orders if you want to overcome the obstacles of inventory tracking and management.


On the other hand, if you’re not centralizing your online and offline orders, curbside pickup could turn into a huge mess. The last thing you want is to leave the customer hanging when the items they order aren’t actually in stock for pickup.


Make sure you turn to order tracking and management solutions like WeSupply to effectively monitor orders, returns, and exchanges at all times, under one roof.

See how curbside pickup works in WeSupply!

What-is-Curbside Pickup-cover
What-is-Curbside Pickup-cover

Want to know all about in-store and curbside pickup?

Customer Order Notifications


As a matter of fact, manually reviewing orders and sending confirmation notifications via text messages or emails is extremely time-consuming. Period.


Besides, the whole idea behind curbside pickup is that your customers can wait for you in their car for a true contactless experience. You wouldn’t want them to head to your store before their order is ready for pickup or wait in their car for too long.


Be proactive and avoid unnecessary calls or trips inside the building that will only lead to increased frustration and dissatisfaction.


Notify customers once they can come and pick up their products, and enable them to check in virtually so that your store associates won’t have to spend precious time on calls and customer complaints.


Limited Staff Availability


Your staff members should be ready right before the customer arrives at any of your physical stores that offer the curbside pickup option. This requires preparations, training, and sufficient availability both in terms of human resources and parking spaces.


To avoid any unpleasant situation, carefully consider how many employees are needed for curbside pickup duties and schedule ahead to minimize disruptions. Additionally, make sure you provide effective training sessions and clear instructions for everyone involved.


Last but not least, invest in your employees and provide your team with the equipment and tools they need in order to do their job well— and everyone will reach the desired outcome.


Steps Toward A Seamless Curbside Pickup Order Fulfillment


What are the main steps to create a smooth and memorable curbside pickup experience for your online store?


  1. Allow your customers to choose a preferred delivery or pickup option, and combine online and offline orders for a seamless experience.
  2. Synchronize all orders from the processing and prepping phases all the way to staging delivery upon customer arrival.
  3. Create a dedicated area for curbside pickup and provide customers with clear, comprehensive instructions.
  4. Enable customers to check in virtually on their mobile devices and notify staff members using automation tools.
  5. Track, measure, and analyze all gathered data to improve the performance and efficiency of your curbside pick service.

How Are Other Retailers Doing It?


There’s no need to shy away from looking at bigger retailers and how they’re doing curbside pickup for their customers.


You can both follow in their footsteps and learn from their mistakes to ensure a fantastic customer experience, so have a look at the following three examples to convince yourself:


Target Curbside Pickup


When it comes to curbside pickup, Target leads the way, creating a seamless customer experience right from the beginning all the way to the end.


How? They let customers notify store employees the moment they’re on their way, easily check in on their mobile devices, and/or enable geolocation to automatically detect their location the instant they’ve arrived at the designated parking spot.


Moreover, Target includes a link with the instructions for the curbside pickup process that is particularly informative, visual, and detailed, and real-time notifications both via email and mobile message to make sure they reach the customers in time to avoid unpleasant circumstances.


The curbside pickup experience ends with a customer experience survey that enables them to further improve their processes.

Best Buy Curbside Pickup


Best Buy is another winner in the category of curbside pickup customer experience.


They offer a dedicated curbside pickup area, notifications throughout the entire journey, and the estimated waiting time for pickup. What else could you be possibly asking for?


To be more specific, customers receive an email with step-by-step instructions the moment their orders are ready for pickup. Upon arrival customers simply check in via the link they’ve received or through the mobile app, and a Best Buy employee will bring out their order.


Besides, their app also lets you select the car make, type, and color to facilitate the process for the store associate who brings out the order.


Employees are happy, customers are satisfied and ready to return— everybody wins!

Walmart Curbside Pickup


What about Walmart?


The customer experience is quite straightforward at Walmart. Customers open the app and choose the nearest location for pickup (or they can add an address for delivery).


Customers can then proceed to their regular online grocery shopping and finalize the purchase. Before the order is complete, customers will receive a message letting them about any substitutions or modifications to their order and another one notifying them that the items are ready for pickup.


They can check in on the app the moment you leave their current location to let Walmart employees know their estimated time of arrival at the dedicated pickup area. Simple as that!

Last Thoughts on Curbside Pickup

So what’s the conclusion?

It’s quite simple: curbside pickup is clearly here to stay, and offering this service as part of your order fulfillment strategy can take your business a long way. Consumer behavior always changes, but the need for convenience remains the same.

Nevertheless, implementing a curbside pickup solution also doesn’t have to take up any more of your valuable time or be too challenging. We’re here to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible!

See here how WeSupply makes curbside pickup work for your business!

Are you ready to get started with Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) and Curbside?

Book a quick call and we are happy to chat.

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