With 77% of consumers saying they will be more cautious about cleanliness, health and safety in the post-pandemic era, according to a study from Capgemini Research Institute, it’s no wonder big-box retailers, chain restaurants and smaller local businesses across the country continue to accelerate their curbside pickup offerings.
This form of contactless commerce has taken off and shows no signs of slowing despite shelter-in-place restrictions loosening across the country. During a recent earnings call, Target said digital sales had grown 275% in the month of April, driven largely by its same-day fulfillment services. Other big-box brands — like Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Petco, Kohl’s and many more across almost every retail sector — have quickly added or improved their curbside options to meet this growing demand. The same is true for grocers like Whole Foods, Kroger and Aldi, to name just a few.
A recent study from Datassential, a foodservice research firm, revealed that 80% of consumers felt most comfortable and safe ordering ahead for curbside pickup, well ahead of the 42% who felt the same about dining in. Many restaurants offered takeout long before the pandemic, but most have now added curbside pickup options. It’s not just the big chains, but also smaller local restaurants, like Beyond Bagels & Deli in Long Island, which quickly saw a 15% boost in business after texting their customers about the new curbside options.
When done right, the curbside model provides an efficient, cost-effective and most importantly, contactless and safe experience for both the customer and the business. It can be applied to almost any business type — as proven by the variety of retailers and restaurants using it today.
Curbside commerce has kept many businesses open and serving their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we transition out of quarantine, the concerns over health and safety aren’t going to quickly fade away.
Here are 5 reasons why curbside pickup is here to stay:
- Health & Safety: Without definitive answers on exactly how COVID-19 is spread or approved treatment options, consumers and employees are rightfully concerned about close in-person contact, especially indoors. With curbside pickup, businesses can communicate via voice calls, text messages or through online channels to handle the entire process from shopping to ordering to payment to pickup, minimizing, if not eliminating, any person-to-person contact. Many businesses — like Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Walmart and most grocers — offer a pop-the-trunk-and-stay-in-your-car pickup experience. 59% of consumers worldwide said they had high levels of in-store interaction before COVID-19, but over the next six months, only 39% expect that same high level of contact, according to research from Capgemini.
- Consumer Convenience: When businesses can seamlessly facilitate fast and contactless curbside pickup, it provides consumers an extremely convenient option compared to in-store pickup or home delivery. With curbside, retail and restaurant customers can purchase and then pick up their orders within hours, if not immediately. They often have the ability to choose specific time slots convenient to them and can receive updates on their mobile device. For shoppers who don’t want to wait, or pay, for shipping, same-day pickup from their favorite retail outlets can be a much needed return to normalcy. For dining options, curbside pickup prevents the need for going inside the restaurant, the unpredictability of waiting in long lines for drive-thru ordering or the additional costs that can come with delivery.
- Business Profitability: As Beyond Bagels in Long Island discovered, providing curbside pickup boosts business — in this case by 15%, a significant increase the owner attributed to consumers who had previously been avoiding going into restaurants and stores. For restaurants using third-parties for ecommerce and/or delivery, curbside pickup can reduce that loss in margin. The same is true for stores who either must pay for shipping or pass those costs on to consumers through the retail price or added delivery charges. With curbside pickup, customers come to the business, potentially reducing several expenses a business must take on to offer shipping and delivery.
- Brand Connection: Curbside pickup provides an opportunity for the business to interact — albeit digitally and from a distance — directly with the consumer throughout their buying experience. When a business can effectively converse in real-time with the consumer to coordinate a seamless and contactless pickup it can create a more personal and satisfying experience than a package delivery — and one that can build loyalty. Not to mention, the customer is also curbside and sees the brand — and any marketing — in person.
- New and Improving Tech: The digital transformation in motion across most business sectors the past decade has been accelerated at warp speed by the pandemic. Existing technology and new solutions are making it much easier for businesses to quickly adapt, innovate and deploy solutions like curbside pickup. With plug-and-play software, businesses can bring together multiple data sources and technologies to create a seamless and efficient experience for both customers and the business. By utilizing an intelligent messaging platform, businesses can use real-time and contactless communication to inform, support and engage customers across the entire customer journey.
While many businesses offered a form of curbside pickup before the pandemic, it was done for convenience, not the safety necessity it has become. As COVID-19 fears dissipate over time, businesses able to execute an efficient and seamless pickup experience will find they have a new set of customers happy to continue enjoying the convenience and flexibility of their contactless curbside service.