In the wake of COVID-19, businesses are rushing to adapt and find ways to meet customers' needs in a cautious consumer climate. But even as fears settle, the impact of the pandemic on customer expectations is likely to linger. Companies of every size are beginning to understand and prepare for a post-pandemic way of doing business.
While some experts believe customers are eager to return to traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and ordering, many have acclimated to quicker, more convenient options. Curbside may have started before the pandemic, but with customers looking to reduce their exposure, it soon turned into the lifeblood of many shops and restaurants—an option that won't fade away post-pandemic.
Why Curbside Pickup?
"Half of consumers have used BOPIS as a result of COVID-19, and a quarter have done so more than once. More than three-quarters of consumers said they were interested in BOPIS; over 90 percent of those who have tried it said curbside was convenient." - National Retail Federation
Unsurprisingly, buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) sales have exploded since March 2020. But it's not only the pandemic that makes this shopping preference so popular, which is why it will likely continue to pick up steam long after COVID concerns wane.
Studies show a growing number of customers expect personalization and convenience, and for retailers, easy pickup is the key to delivering both. At the heart of any positive customer experience is immediacy, simplicity, and seamless communication—all of which exist in a well-executed curbside pickup transaction.
How to Implement Curbside Pickup
While some retailers have the upper hand (like those that already offered curbside pickup and quickly scaled - e.g., Best Buy, Kohl’s), this doesn't mean inexperienced businesses can't catch up. In fact, if your business could benefit from curbside pickup, now is the perfect time to take the leap. Shoppers know businesses are under tremendous pressure, and they're far more likely to forgive transactional mistakes at this time.
Curbside pickup sounds simple, but it does require orchestration between employees, customers, and technology. The following steps are meant to serve as a guideline to help you on your journey of implementing curbside pickup for your business, no matter if you're a local coffee shop or a large brick and mortar.1. Determine what products can be offered.
While it may sound obvious, determining which products you can realistically offer through curbside pickup is critical. Small businesses especially need to be careful of not over-promising when they don't have the staff or technology to do it all. If certain items tend to take longer to prepare or are not easily movable, it's worth assessing if it's something you should offer. However, it's worth noting that customers typically assume that whatever you offered before is also available as curbside pickup.2. Set up communications with curbside customers.
With most of the transactions taking place at a distance, communication is the most critical element. Most consumers admit that they'll abandon their carts if the checkout process is too complicated. This means you need to be engaging and leading customers through every step of the buying process. Be sure to make the checkout process clear as many stores now have a multitude of options they offer—buy online and have the product shipped, buy online and do in-store pickup, or buy online with curbside pickup. Throughout the entire journey, but especially so in the end, it should be crystal clear to the customer what option they're partaking in.3. Invest in technology that automates the process.
Like the checkout process, your business must offer clear curbside parking rules that allow the customer to easily find where they should park and how to tell your staff that they've arrived for their pickup. This is where a robust tech infrastructure comes to play, such as chatbots. Deployable on your website or mobile app (iOS, Android) with low code, a chatbot allows the customer to alert your staff about their arrival quickly and offers a robust way for your team to communicate with them back. From text to audio and video chat, our chatbot provides a multitude of options for your business to take advantage of.
Now, all it takes is the placement of a QR code on a sign that, when scanned, can launch a contextually aware chatbot that begins to process of curbside pickup. Book a demo with one of our CX Advisors to see the endless ways you can offer seamless conversations that empower your customers and support your team members.4. Share the process and must-know details with customers.
If you've gone through the process of building out an infrastructure for curbside pickup, make sure that it doesn't become your best-kept secret! While making it clear that you offer it through easy selection on your website and app is a must, don't be shy about promoting it. From clear call to actions on your website to social media, let your customers know that curbside pickup is an option and how they can go about it.
The pandemic may have put curbside pickup on the map, but its benefits to your business and customer go far beyond the world's current state. Curbside pickup is desirable for customers seeking convenience and retailers that want to maintain and grow their brick and mortar experience. Creating a hybrid business model that fuses traditional retail and e-commerce will ensure that you're able to meet and exceed customer needs and wants for years to come.
Whether you're in the beginning stages of deploying curbside pickup or already have it in place at your business, one of the best ways to grow its adoption is by improving how consumers interact and initiate the process. Chatbots are one such way that enable powerful and delightful customer experiences with scalable solutions for all of your teams. Best of all, our chatbots don't require a massive IT department to get up and running. A little bit of code here and a little bit of brand customization there, and you'll be up and running in no time.
Wondering how a Customer Experience (CX) strategy can delight your customers and help your staff? Schedule a short demo with one of our team members, and they'll walk you through the entire process. Not ready to commit to that? No problem! Check out Zoe, our resident chatbot, and experience how transformative and personalized the whole process can be.