The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on consumer shopping trends. Due to strict regulations requiring non-essential businesses to close their doors and as a result of fear associated with the spread of the virus, retailers around the globe have restructured their business models. Instead of promoting an in-store shopping experience, they have learned to rely on curbside pickup.
What is Curbside Delivery and Curbside Pickup?
Curbside pickup, also referred to as curbside shopping or curbside delivery, encompasses the concept of purchasing items online, then collecting them directly outside of the store.
In some retail concepts, including queue management, companies such as Ombori refer to this innovative concept as BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) or BOPAC (curbside pickup).
Queue management systems offer curbside delivery solutions. Platforms such as Ombori’s Curbside Pickup Solution offer an easy way for customers to collect their purchases without entering the store. It offers booking, notifications, and collection.
Did Curbside Pickup Exist Before the Pandemic?
Prior to the abrupt halt in our daily routine, curbside pickup was already on the rise.
According to a survey conducted by Offers.com, 46% of shoppers were already using a curbside pickup service in January 2020. Coresight research supports the same finding. In July 2019, Coresight found that consumers were already using BOPIS to leverage its unique features and benefits.
How Did COVID-19 Impact Curbside Shopping?
Both consumers and retailers have leaned heavily on curbside delivery throughout the pandemic.
For consumers, it has been a way to maintain social distancing and adhere to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For retailers, it has been a way to keep sales steady during shutdowns.
Research shows that curbside pickup orders rose 87% between late February and March 2020, and the number of people who Googled the term “curbside pickup” tripled.
Overall, curbside shopping has been a safe alternative throughout the pandemic. It allows consumers access to products, including both essential and non-essential items, while ensuring businesses continue operations. The benefits, however, apply to both a pandemic world and a non-pandemic world.
Benefits of BOPIS
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, curbside pickup was already on the rise. The pandemic, however, has increased its popularity.
Gene Detroyer, professor of international business for Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and executive director of Global Commerce Education, reports, “Curbside pickup has always been a big opportunity. The difference is that the opportunity was going to evolve slowly. Perhaps maximizing in the next five to 10 years … The pandemic situation has accelerated that quickly. While there will be a drop-off after the pandemic slows, the levels will stay very high. It will not surprise me if the post-pandemic levels are double that of the pre-pandemic levels.”
According to Ombori, curbside pickup has several benefits — for both consumers and retailers.
Increases Sales by Offering Better Collection Options
Since shoppers no longer want to go into stores, curbside pickup has presented a unique opportunity for them to continue shopping. It provides a customized collection option that ensures consumer safety. Shoppers are able to purchase items online. Once their order has been filled, they are notified when it is time to pick it up. Queue management systems, such as Ombori’s, are used to monitor this process. As the shopper arrives, store employees deliver the items, wearing masks to reduce the spread of the virus.
This system not only ensures the safety of shoppers but also leads to increased sales for retailers. Instead of losing potential business, they are able to serve their clients in a customized manner.
Simplifies the Process for the Customer
Most retailers offer curbside shopping via an online app – whether they have developed their own or rely on a third party. These apps, which service the full shopping experience, have simplified the process for customers.
Camille Schuster, president of Global Collaborations, Inc., summarizes, “Curbside pickup is much more convenient for the consumer than having to go into the store for pickup, especially if there are a number of bags. For those who like shopping online or are really short on time, curbside pickup is a very desirable option.”
Reduces Errors from Delivering the Wrong Bags
Home delivery has served as an alternative throughout the pandemic, and although it has risen in popularity, its downfalls are often highlighted and lead shoppers to revert back to curbside delivery.
At the height of the pandemic, the most common challenge with home delivery was those wrong items, and even wrong orders were being delivered. This created a time inconvenience, and due to uncertainty surrounding how the virus was spread (specifically in the early days), shoppers became dissatisfied with the number of contacts touching their orders. Curbside shopping has eliminated these problems. Now, consumers can check their orders while still in their cars and clarify any mistakes. Additionally, they can avoid shipping fees, which is one of the most popular reasons why customers turn to such solutions.
Reduces Customer Wait Times
Customers are always searching for quick solutions to everyday challenges. They are constantly fighting time, trying to fit as many activities as possible into their day. This encapsulates today’s consumer mindset.
Curbside pickup has provided a solution to this problem, creating an effective way for customers to easily purchase their items online and pick them up curbside, reducing their wait time drastically.
Increases Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Overall, curbside shopping has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. The process streamlines the shopping experience, and as long as retailers continue to meet the needs of their customers, they will reap the benefits as well. Consumers will continue to shop with companies that have helped them through these trying times, especially those who put customer safety and security above everything else.
Tracking Consumer Trends
The use of queue management systems provides retailers data on customer shopping trends. By tracking and reporting these trends, retailers can customize their solutions to continuously improve the customer experience. The combination of streamlining flow and reducing overhead costs can positively impact a retailer’s bottom line.
Will Post-Pandemic Curbside Delivery Thrive?
People have become accustomed to the “new normal,” and many will continue to rely on curbside shopping in a post-pandemic world. The benefits offered by such services have started to carry through already and have created a higher level of convenience for shoppers.
Ken Morris, industry thought leader, reports, “Buy online and pickup at the curb (BOPAC) is something consumers have fully embraced and will expect in the future. The service provides a higher level of convenience to the customer, and the transaction can remain contactless, adding a level of safety many customers will expect and require. Retailers need to streamline the process with the use of beacons or license plate recognition; the customer experience can be streamlined to improve efficiency and eliminate customer wait times for BOPIS and BOPAC. Perhaps the store of the future is really an automated pick, pack, and pickup facility leveraging micro-fulfillment instead of traditional point of sale.”
Björn is Chief Experience Officer of Ombori Grid. He spent the early part of his career in the music business before moving into retail design and video production. His passion is for creating unique and memorable retail experiences that excite and delight customers. He spent 6 years at Visual Art in Stockholm before joining Ombori in 2018.