What is Curbside Pickup and How Do You Implement It?

At Vend, we’ve long talked about the changing habits of consumers and how their preferences have evolved over the last few years. Curbside pickup was one of those changes that made its way to the forefront, particular when the pandemic hit. 

Even as the world opens back up, experts agree that curbside pickup is here to stay. Industry data shows that 75% of consumers that use delivery services would continue opting for curbside pickup even post-pandemic.

Whether you’re implementing curbside pickup for the first time or want to continue improving your efforts, keep reading. 

This post sheds light on the top best practices to consider when running your curbside pickup initiatives. 

What is curbside pickup?

Curbside pickup is a service that lets customers purchase products in advance and pick them up without having to go into the store. 

Curbside pickup orders can be placed online or over the phone. After the order is placed, the retailer will process it and notify the customer when their items are ready for pickup. The customer heads to the store’s location and parks at a designated area, then a retail associate will come out to meet them in their car and give them their orders. 

How to implement curbside pickup

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of curbside, let’s discuss how you can implement it. Here are a number of best practices and examples to follow when running your curbside initiatives. 

Get your tech stack right

Robust technology is the backbone of curbside pickup. In order to get it right, you need to adopt solutions that can facilitate inventory control, order management, and customer communications. 

Consider the following.

Point of sale, ecommerce, and inventory management

The most important pieces of technology involved in curbside pickup are your point of sale system, ecommerce platform, and inventory management software

Since most curbside orders take place online or on people’s people’s mobile devices, you need systems that can showcase your real-time inventory on different channels. And whenever someone places an order, your stock levels need to be updated accordingly. 

You may also decide to take orders over the phone. In these situations, you need an intuitive POS that lets your staff members ring up sales while they’re on the call. 

If you’re allowing shoppers to place orders through different channels and methods, see to it that your system unifies everything so you have a single view of your sales and inventory. Leverage technology that makes it simple to track orders on all platforms so you always know the stock you have on hand and any pending sales. 

Vend Tip

Vend’s robust retail platform enables you to connect your favorite apps and leverage workflows that power initatives like curbside pickup. With Vend, you can keep your channels tightly connected so that sales, orders, and inventory data are synced across your entire operation.

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In order for your curbside initiatives to be successful, the whole experience has to be seamless. Retail payments are a big component here, as customers have different preferences when it comes to how to pay. There’s credit cards, mobile payments, contactless payments, and even cash (though the use of cash has diminished significantly over the past year).

Have a think about how you’ll accept payments for curbside orders. Are you allowing shoppers to pay upfront? If so, your website must be equipped with the right payment gateway. If you’re accepting orders through a mobile site or app, then enabling mobile payments like Apple Pay will make the checkout experience more convenient for shoppers.

If you’re planning to process payments on-site, then you’ll need to equip your team with a mobile point of sale system that lets you take the checkout experience to the customers. 

Alerts and notifications

Curbside pickup involves multiple steps and parties, and everything must work in perfect sync. There are a number of considerations here, including:

  • How will your staff be alerted when someone places a curbside order?
  • How will customers know when their orders have been accepted and processed?
  • How will the customer know when their orders are ready for pickup?
  • How will you know when the shopper has arrived?

Make sure you have a communications system in place that facilitates all these components. Ideally, your order management system should have push notifications that alert your team when an order is placed, so they can fulfill it ASAP.

It’s also important to send order confirmations, ideally giving shoppers instructions or directions to your store. 

Poached Neighborhood Kitchen in Downey, CA., for example, promptly sends customers a text message when their order is confirmed, along with the restaurant’s address. 

Once that step is complete, your employees should be able to let customers know that their order is ready. This could mean sending them a text message or an in-app notification if you’re using a shopping app service for curbside orders. 

The Cheesecake Factory sends a text message, along with detailed instructions on where to pull-up and what to do when customers get to the store. 

Iron out the in-store logistics

Once you have the technology in place, the next step is to set up your in-store systems and processes so you and your team can make curbside happen. 

The specifics here will vary from store-to-store, by they generally involve:

Dedicating space in your store or backroom for processing orders. Organization is key here. The last thing you want is to mix up orders that need to be shipped with those for pickup. 

Similarly, products that are reserved for pickup must be clearly marked so they don’t accidentally end up on the sales floor. 

Assigning employees to curbside duties. Your team members will need to take on new tasks, so see to it that everyone is clear on what they need to do. Some of these duties include:

  • Monitoring for curbside orders. 
  • Picking and packing orders.
  • Interfacing with shoppers at the time of pickup.
  • Managing and operating the tech involved to facilitate the process. 

All these things require training, so set aside time and resources to ensure that your team members have the knowledge and skills they need at each step of the curbside pickup process. 

Iron out the curbside logistics

In addition to what’s happening in-store or in your backroom, there are also a number of logistical steps to consider at the curb. You need to have dedicated parking spaces for shoppers picking up their orders, and it’s important to manage vehicle traffic so cars don’t pile up at your location. 

To make the experience as smooth as possible, ensure that shoppers know where to drive or park to pick up their orders. This can easily be done through clear instructions (like The Cheesecake Factory example) as well as large signs pointing people to the right direction. 

Check out this example from Target. 

Market your initiatives

Already have your curbside initiatives good to go? Let your customers know. 

Start by having clear signage in-store telling shoppers they can choose to pick up their orders. 

On your website, display a banner promoting your curbside efforts to encourage customers to choose the option at checkout. Nordstrom does this using a top-of-the-fold banner on its website, which prompts visitors to enter their location details and locate the closest store.

If you’re implementing email marketing, send an email to your subscribers letting them know about your curbside initiatives. Be sure to mention the benefits of curbside, along with content talking about how safe and convenient it is. 

Have a look at this example from Mother’s Market. 

Get moving with curbside pickup

Curbside pickup is here to stay, so see to it that you have the tools required to adapt. If you’re looking to implement convenient fulfillment services like in-store pickup and curbside, Vend has your back. 

Our robust Fulfilment capabilities can facilitate both online and in-store orders and allow you to implement both delivery and pickup with ease. 

Vend makes it a breeze to view, track, and manage the status of all orders no matter they’re coming from (i.e., in-store or online) and how they need to be fulfilled. 

Try Vend for free and see how we can help power your retail operations. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.