3 Reasons Curbside is Here to Stay

March 19, 2021 Brian Garofola

In 2014, my wife, two-year-old son and I relocated to the Chicago suburbs from the East Coast. Shortly after the move, my wife and I received the wonderful news that she was pregnant, and another boy was to join our family. About 10 weeks before her due date she went into labor and ultimately ended up staying in the hospital for the next 28 days before delivering a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

 

During those weeks, I was scrambling to get my toddler son to pre-school, get to the office, visit my wife in the hospital, and take care of the house. I distinctly remember one day I needed to make a quick stop at the end of the day for some of the basics - milk, eggs, bread, and mac & cheese. I pulled into a parking spot only to turn around and see my son sound asleep in his car seat. At that point, I didn't have a choice, so I picked him up and I wandered into the store with his head on my shoulder. Of course, he woke up crying just a few minutes into the, what should have been, routine trip. Being 7 years ago, most of us didn't even think about ordering ahead and picking up our items curbside. The "drive through" was the realm of the fast-food joint, not the supermarket or retail stores.

 

Fast forward to today, as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 global pandemic, Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online Pickup at Curbside (BOPAC) have quickly become the norm for any retailer. Vibes predicts these contactless experiences will continue growing 45% in 2021 alone. This is because curbside pickup has dramatically shifted the way we live our daily lives. In store and curbside pickup offer consumers convenience and instant gratification and gives brands the ability to service consumers in new, less costly ways.

 

Reflecting on my own story, it would have been remarkably easier to stay in the car with my sleeping son and have our groceries placed in the trunk. Curbside isn't just more convenient for the exhausted parent of young kids, like me in 2014, but it's also safer for the elderly and disabled. My late grandmother would have found curbside pickup easy for her when she just needed to grab a can of Folger's and her favorite Entenmann's Crumb Coffee Cake (If you're from Long Island or New York City, then you know what I'm talking about!). As the pandemic wears on and consumer behavior continues to shift, the convenience of Curbside will become an essential part of every retailers omni-channel strategy. 

 

Before curbside revolutionized modern-day shopping, Amazon changed the course of online retail when it launched Prime with free 2-day shipping. Not far behind became free 1-day shipping and then on some items, in certain locations, same day shipping in less than 2 hours. Prime escalated consumer expectations and called on brands to satisfy shoppers’ desire for instant gratification with unprecedented delivery times. Now, curbside pickup helps brands meets the desire for instant gratification without the associated overhead and cost of delivery logistics.

 

One brand excelling in the execution of this is Dick's Sporting Goods, where their physical stores are the hub of their omnichannel experience, shipping 75% of its ecommerce sales through BOPIS, BOPAC and Ship-to-Store services. CEO Lauren Hobart explained the curbside process to viewers of CNBC Mad Money, emphasizing the convenience and instant gratification curbside provides consumers. I experienced this firsthand when I recently ordered a new pair of running shoes just before lunch and was out for a jog in them a few hours later after swinging by the store and having them dropped in my trunk. All around, it was a great experience for me and the brand.

 

As brands look to deploy curbside pickup experiences, it's essential to keep the customer experience at the forefront. Email inboxes are a crowded place and searching through the clutter to find an order pickup notification can be difficult. With this, many brands are shifting their focus to mobile communications. Mobile push notifications are effective at grabbing a user’s attention, but their transient nature makes them a suboptimal channel for a curbside pickup solution as they cannot be easily recalled.

 

However, SMS doesn’t suffer from the deficiencies of email and push and is therefore an ideal part of delivering a great curbside pickup experience. 48% of consumers prefer receiving text alerts and important notices from businesses rather than email or phone calls. SMS messages are short and to the point and can contain simple instructions with a web-based call to action for the customer to 'check in.’ SMS messages are easy to find, and brands should be using a separate short code for these servicing messages, so they don’t mix with brands’ SMS marketing messages.

 

Additionally, brands can leverage SMS and Mobile Wallet for an even more elevated and fully contactless experience, providing the customer with a mobile pickup pass that is location-aware and can be used to immediately validate the customer at the point of delivery. 

 

While I'm beyond the days of my kids falling asleep in the backseat, curbside pickup has become a standard part of our everyday lives, whether it's grabbing Gatorade's and hockey tape at Dick's Sporting Goods or dog food for our pet Rocky at PetSmart. It creates a great customer experience by increasing convenience and safety for the busy parent, the elderly, or the disabled. With consumer demand rising for at store pickup options, brands need to invest in the mobile technologies required to deliver optimal consumer experiences. 

 

For more on Buy Online Pickup at Curbside and Buy Online Pick Up In Store, download Vibes Contactless Curbside report here

About the Author

Brian Garofola

Brian Garofola is the Chief Technology Officer and responsible for the discovery, development, and operations of the Vibes Platform, leading the Product, Engineering, IT, and Security functions at Vibes. Brian has been building SaaS products platforms for 20 years and, prior to Vibes, spent nearly a decade building solutions for every part of the automotive retail experience at CDK Global.

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