How to offer curbside pickup to your customers

It’s the year of BOPAC: buy online, pick up at the curb.

So far in 2020, there has been a 300-percent increase in BOPAC sales. Social distancing and store capacity limits have led customers to search for alternatives to traditional shopping. Of the various options available, curbside pickup has proven to be one of the most popular.

Consumers enjoy the convenience of shopping online with the benefit of local pickup. There are no extra shipping costs or frustrating wait times or delays with delivery companies.

For retailers, curbside pickup is a great way to build revenue streams without expanding stores or investing extra funds. And BOPAC is ideal for small local retailers who don’t have the resources to provide home delivery or whose customer base is situated close by and can easily pull up to the store to receive their order.

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Here are several steps you should take to offer curbside pickup to your customers.

1. Scout out the physical space

Curbside delivery demands a different use of retail space, both inside and outside. First, you need to designate an area for order pickups. Take a look at your store’s surroundings. Is curbside access to the storefront available? Perhaps there’s a parking lot with access to the shop via a back door. Is there ample parking if multiple customers arrive at once?

Apart from the pickup area, you also need to set aside room inside the shop for preparing, packing, and storing orders awaiting pickup. Depending on the volume of curbside pickup orders, you may need to allocate a generous amount of store space so staff can work efficiently.

2. Assess your inventory

A curbside pickup service places different demands on inventory management. Especially during lockdowns, some customers prefer to place larger orders to avoid venturing out as often. For example, a dog owner may purchase two months’ worth of dog food rather than the usual one month.

If numerous customers alter their purchase behaviors at the same time, this will affect your inventory flow. Do a thorough stock check before offering curbside pickup, and make sure to purchase extra inventory if necessary. Pay particular attention to products on sale — or those that consumers like to “hoard.” These are the kinds of items that should fill your store shelves so you can meet curbside pickup demand.

3. Create a curbside pickup process

There are two parties involved with curbside pickup: the seller and the customer. The customer must follow instructions the retailer provides to pick up their package at the appointed time and complete the order. Retailers must create a user-friendly, streamlined process to make sure that happens.

First, map out the pickup flow. Does your store have a window where the customer can pull up, provide their order number, and receive their package without leaving the car? Or are there parking bays where customers can wait in their cars for an attendant to approach?

Another option is to set windows of time and stagger customer pickups. There are many different ways you can configure curbside pickup. It all depends on the layout of your store and staff availability.

4. Hire staff or retrain current staff 

Curbside pickup adds another dimension to the daily running of a store, and retailers need to accommodate that with enough staff to get the job done.

There are various additional duties involved in managing store pickups. Taking orders, preparing and packing orders, and handling customer interactions throughout the day are all jobs that current employees can take care of with the right training. If there’s an overflow of work the staff can’t handle, you can consider hiring more employees to focus solely on the curbside pickup part of the business.

5. Make it easy for customers to BOPAC

Your business can take curbside pickup orders in two ways: by phone or online. Phone orders aren’t very efficient. Unless you have multiple phone lines, you can only field one call at a time, and a staff member must constantly be available to answer the phone. In addition, you can only receive calls during business hours — unless you don’t mind having your home life disrupted!

Online ordering enables customers to buy from your store 24-7, and you don’t need to waste valuable staff time on order processing. It’s also easy to facilitate curbside pickup with online orders. If you’re using an e-commerce platform like Shopify or eBay, it’s as simple as adding “local pickup” to your shipping options. You can provide all the pickup details for the customer via the platform.

Another way to offer curbside pickup is with Jotform’s curbside pickup order form. You can easily customize the form with your product list. It includes a section where customers can choose a pickup day and time from predefined options.

The digital form integrates with dozens of payment gateways, so the customer can order, book a pickup time, and pay for their purchase in one go. This is incredibly convenient and encourages repeat purchases.

Orders and pickup scheduling are automatic and completely online, enabling retailers to access and manage all data in one centralized place.

6. Communicate clearly at all times

Curbside pickup has a lot of moving parts. Your team must prepare and pack orders and have them ready for pickup at the designated time. Customers need to know exactly when and where you expect them to arrive. And both the seller and customer need to know what to do if the customer doesn’t pick up the order when they’re supposed to.

That’s why it’s so important to have clear processes in place and to communicate them to customers at all times. For example, place signage at your store or on the street directing customers to the pickup point to reduce traffic and confusion.

Set up a confirmation email to go to customers when they submit an order. Include all of the pickup details, such as day, time, and directions. Sending SMS reminders an hour before pickup is also a great way to keep customers informed. If the customer doesn’t arrive at the appointed time, resend the digital pickup form so they can schedule a new time.

Once you’ve set up your processes, creating effective communications for each touchpoint is much easier.

Curbside pickup is a smart move

For local retailers, offering home delivery usually isn’t an option. Instead, BOPAC makes the most sense — if you execute it correctly.

The pandemic began the trend toward curbside pickup, but the convenience and ease it offers for both retailers and customers will keep it going. As the pandemic rages on, consumers are shifting their buying behaviors, perhaps forever. Having a curbside pickup solution in place is smart marketing now, but it will likely be an evergreen investment, even when COVID-19 is a distant memory.

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