Picking up an order that you placed online or over the phone is nothing new. The convenience of buy online, pick up in-store, or BOPIS, has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the 2019 Adobe Digital Insights report showing a 39% increase year over year from 2018 to 2019 and 37% of consumers surveyed planning to use BOPIS for their 2019 holiday shopping.
However, the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed things a bit in this regard because of safety concerns. So instead of BOPIS, consumers are now looking more for BOPIC: buy online, pick up in the car.
Many customers don’t want to run the risk of going into the store, even to simply pick up an order, so right now, one of the biggest things retailers and restaurants can focus on is a smooth experience as they take things to the curb. Here are a few tips and ideas to seamlessly integrate the curbside pickup process into your business and make it as worry-free for consumers as possible.
Reassure customers of safety protocols
COVID-19 has made safety is a top priority for consumers right now. Reassure your customers about the protocols you have put in place, even for curbside pickup, and prominently display these guidelines on your website, mobile app, and signage posted at the actual curbside location.
In a 2020 Morning Consult consumer survey, 81% of respondents said they would feel more comfortable knowing businesses are regularly sanitizing high-traffic surfaces. Another 77% said they would feel more comfortable if there were hand sanitizer dispensers available, and 69% said they would feel more comfortable if employees were required to wear masks.
Shoppers care about health guidelines, so be sure to post information for your customers about what steps you have taken to mitigate risk. There should be information about employees being required to wear masks and possibly gloves, the use of numbered waiting areas or parking spots to ensure social distancing, hand-washing protocols, sanitizing high-traffic surfaces, and so on.
Emphasize that you are doing everything you can to ensure both customers and employees are being careful and safe.
Dedicated staff and/or hours
With so many businesses offering curbside pickup nowadays, one of the biggest ways to make your business stand out is to do everything you can to make the process as smooth as possible. A time-consuming, inconvenient, or hiccup-riddled transaction is not going to inspire consumers to keep using your curbside services, and it may drive them to look elsewhere.
In a 2017 JDA survey about in-store pickup, 23% of consumers reported that it took the store staff a long time to find their order or that employees were unable to find it at all. Sixteen percent noted that there were no dedicated staff members for the BOPIS orders.
To combat this, reserve certain employees to curbside pickup. Not only will this let those staff members become experts on the process, but it will also cut down on the “too many cooks spoil the broth” problem, where if there are too many people managing an activity, it will not be done well.
A few dedicated curbsiders, with only one manager at any given time to direct traffic and oversee pickups, can streamline the process and leave fewer opportunities for transactions to be mishandled.
Additionally, you could offer dedicated curbside hours. This could be especially beneficial if you are a small operation with few employees. That way, you know employees will not be distracted trying to also serve in-person customers, phone calls, or online orders. Dedicated curbside pickup hours may come in handy, particularly during the holiday shopping rush.
Smartphones put shopping and curbside dining at consumers’ fingertips. Lean into that by implementing technology that will help both employees and customers navigate curbside pickup.
QR codes are a great way to facilitate contactless ordering and pickup, and you can use Square to set up them up for your business. Customers scan QR codes to pull up a contactless menu. There could even be a QR code generated for the employee to scan when they meet the customer curbside to ensure a completely contactless experience.
Even if you don’t operate a restaurant, a mobile-friendly ordering app, ordering page, or eCommerce website can also function in largely the same way as QR codes. There is nothing to scan, but having a mobile-ready way to feature your products or menu lets your customers add things to a virtual shopping cart, and enables you to store their information for a contactless payment experience, which is now table stakes. You can then give your customers the option to pick up their orders curbside. The Square POS app allows customers to pay touch-free online, in store, or anywhere in between, with payment links, QR codes, Apple Pay, EMV chip cards, and more.
You can also set up text messages that let customers know to call your business when they have arrived, so a staff member can bring the order out ASAP.
Consider having a backup plan in case there are any hiccups. You can post signs that have the company’s phone number easily visible, with directions about calling inside, and have laminated menus that can be easily sanitized.
Weather and traffic considerations
Outside of safety guidelines and streamlining the process, there are a few factors that are largely outside your control, but you can do things to mitigate the circumstances.
Weather is the biggest one for curbside pickup. If you’re located in a cold or wet climate, it’s more important that the actual pickup transaction works as quickly as possible so that your customers are not sitting there with their windows down getting rained or snowed on.
Your employees who have to be outside will also appreciate this.
Make sure your employees are properly outfitted for the weather, and consider pop-up canopy tents to keep employees and products from getting wet. You can also have umbrellas handy that employees can hold over themselves and the customer’s car door to keep everyone as dry as possible.
Finally, think about the flow of traffic when setting up your curbside pickup area. Perhaps it would be better to make the back entrance to your store a dedicated curbside spot, or dedicate a couple of numbered parking spots to curbside so as not to block the flow of traffic if your customer demand increases. This could go hand in hand with offering dedicated curbside hours if you are located in a high-traffic area or do not have access to dedicated parking spots.
These are trying times for everyone, especially small business owners, but there are some easy ways to facilitate curbside pickup in a seamless, smooth way that will strengthen your customers’ confidence in you and maintain their loyalty throughout the pandemic and beyond.
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