The pandemic has forced changes in retail. The restrictions placed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have also negatively affected businesses across all sectors. Many brick-and-mortar stores had to close their doors to patrons to prevent infections.
To survive, many businesses had to innovate and find ways to safely continue operations despite the ongoing public health crisis. There were ghost kitchens that acted as delivery-only restaurants. Some stores implemented strict by-appointment visits to avoid crowding.
From the pandemic, a new way to shop was introduced: curbside pickup.
Why Curbside Pickup
Curbside pickup is an ingenious solution to the restrictions because it allows people to purchase from local businesses without exposing customers and staff to COVID-19. Basically, it is a combination of online shopping and store pickup. The customers will order food, clothes, books, or groceries through an e-commerce platform and pay electronically.
When the order is ready, they will be notified via e-mail or text. They will drive to a location nearby the store and receive the item they purchased. Usually, the customer does not have to leave their vehicle. The staff member will hand them the goods.
Aside from being safe, it is convenient. That is why shoppers prefer it over other modes of shopping. In a survey conducted by Retail Wire, about 59 percent of consumers now use a curbside pickup. Of that number, about 75 percent have expressed that they will continue taking advantage of it after the pandemic.
While restaurants and supermarkets were among the first to introduce it, other retailers also offered curbside pickup as an option. Consumers could buy clothing items, sports and fitness equipment, cosmetic products, books, and medicine via curbside pickup.
But because it is still fairly new, there is still room for improvement.
Provide Support to Staff
The option to purchase a product through curbside pickup adds another responsibility to your staff. Whether the business is a multi-million-dollar corporation or fledgling startup, management should be ready to provide support to the team that will work on curbside pickup. It is not an easy job. They will have to receive the order, hunt down the products from storage, package it, and hand it over to customers.
Management should streamline the process. Do not pressure them to work harder or fulfill the orders faster. Instead, make it easy for them so that they can address each order as quickly as they can.
Perhaps, adopting the technology will improve the process. A device that can digitally track inventory will be handy and help the staff become more efficient, especially if the store offers multiple ways to shop. A furniture store will have to use push trolleys to move bigger purchases from storage to the pickup location. Pharmacies will need medical utility carts with drawers to protect medication and health products.
Supporting the staff also means paying them a living wage. Giving them the bare minimum while expecting them to do all they can to serve the business and its customers is unfair.
Give Updates for Every Step of the Process
People nowadays work from home, but that does not guarantee that they can be available anytime to pick up their purchases. Instead, the store should give them a heads up if their order is being processed and give them an estimate of when they can expect it to be ready. E-commerce companies already do this. They allow customers to track their purchases using different tools such as GPS. The store can also provide updates via email, push notification, or SMS — whichever the customer prefers.
And, when the order is ready for pickup, include relevant information in the message. Reiterate the pickup location. Add a map or a landmark if necessary. List down what they will need to bring to show the staff member who will handle the transaction. Mention how long the product will be available until it is re-shelved.
Ask for Feedback
The customers who have experienced curbside pickup will know exactly what can be improved. After the transaction, send customers a follow-up message to thank them for their purchase. Businesses should also encourage customers to provide feedback via a review on their website or by answering a survey.
Businesses should be open to suggestions and carefully consider each one of them. Not all suggestions have to be implemented, but hearing them out will help the business improve the process.
Businesses have to adapt to new strategies quickly and effectively to survive, especially during a crisis. Offering curbside pickup is one strategy born during the pandemic and will likely continue to exist after the global public health emergency.