Is curbside pickup just getting started?

Discussion
Source: Dick's Sporting Goods
May 07, 2020
Tom Ryan

With scores of retailers introducing curbside pickup and continuing to offer it as stores reopen, more consumers are getting accustomed to the convenience of the service overall.

Among the research showing curbside’s appeal during the pandemic:

  • The number of orders placed online and picked up at stores by customers surged 208 percent between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.
  • A survey of over 1,500 consumers from CommerceHub taken over a two-day period in April found 59 percent were more likely to use curbside pickup following the coronavirus outbreak. Of those who subscribed to multiple delivery services (including Amazon Prime), 75 percent said they were still likely to opt for curbside delivery once the pandemic subsides.
  • An online survey of retailers from RIS News conducted from April 2 to 16 found 44 percent offering curbside pickup, just below the 47 percent offering BOPIS via counter pickup. A third of retailers not offering curbside pickup were rushing to get the service up as soon as possible.

The findings come as major chains, including Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap and Kohl’s, as well as multitudes of local stores and restaurants have introduced curbside delivery after forced store closures.

All the retailers new to curbside pickup are offering the service for free. Kroger, which had charged $4.95 for the service, is also offering it for free during the pandemic. Walmart and Target had long offered the service as complementary.

In a note, “Curbside, Connected & Robotic Retail Revolution,” that came out in April 2019, Cowen & Co. predicted that some 25 percent of consumers overall would opt for curbside’s convenience by 2020. The benefits of curbside pickup, according to Cowen’s report as reported by Forbes, include foregoing in-store navigation, avoiding the checkout line and not having to search for items in the store. Cowen wrote, “Curbside will play a premier role in the future of retail.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has curbside pickup become a bigger opportunity amid the pandemic or do you see it as a temporary solution for most retailers? What hurdles may the expansion of curbside pickup face?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Even after consumers go back to work, the idea of curbside pickup on the way home will remain a strong trend in the months to come."
"For retailers, contrary to popular belief, providing pickup and curbside can actually increase sales and shopper frequency."
"In the long run it could become another problem for retailers who depend on foot traffic and impulse buying. Fewer lookers equal less buying."

Join the Discussion!

43 Comments on "Is curbside pickup just getting started?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup is here to stay in a big way. This will be one of the pandemic-driven service features that will become a permanent and bigger part of retailing.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup will see sustained growth in groceries. There is an aspect of convenience and a reciprocal relationship between customers and retailers. The critical mass of consumers get used to it, so stores will also learn and perfect it. For other retailers, it will probably wane once the safety-related concerns ease.

Generally speaking businesses that are already doing drive-thru on a large scale may find it attractive to invest in curbside capabilities. But unlike BOPIS, the cross-sell and up-sell opportunities are non-existent in BOPAC, so the investments may not be as much.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Sometimes a major crisis (like COVID-19) forces a change. Sometimes that change is temporary, but it can also be permanent, even after the crisis. We’re enjoying the answers our clients are giving us to the following question: What major change did you make to your business during the COVID-19 crisis that you are going to make permanent?

When it comes to retail and restaurants, curbside pickup has become “standard operating procedure” throughout the crisis. Many retailers and restaurants already had a system in place for this. It was just amplified by the crisis. Now customers use it on a regular basis – and they are used to it. It is now a viable and comfortable option for them to take advantage of. The question is, will the retailer be willing to accommodate their customers’ new habit of curbside pickup?

David Naumann
BrainTrust

The pandemic has certainly increased the number of retailers offering curbside pickup and consumers are adopting this new process. It will likely be a new customer expectation. The biggest challenge for retailers is the increased cost of staff to pick items and staff the curbside pickup area. While most retailers are not charging for this service now, some may choose to add a fee for curbside.

Michael Terpkosh
BrainTrust

This is huge opportunity for retailers across all channels. In some parts of the country, as malls and stores try to open, consumers are not coming out in big crowds to shop. Curbside pickup offers consumers more peace of mind about their shopping safety while allowing them to get out of the house. I believe that even after consumers go back to work, the idea of curbside pickup on the way home will remain a strong trend in the months to come.

Art Suriano
Guest
Curbside pickup is nothing new and has already proven successful for many retailers. The pandemic has forced retailers who have not offered the service to get in the game. That said, when things return to normal, whenever that is, I see curbside pickup continuing for most retailers. Moreover, it will be more significant than it was before the pandemic because more customers who had not used the service before will, because they will learn to like it. However there will still be that percentage who love going to stores. Once that group becomes comfortable walking inside stores, and they are allowed to do so, I see store traffic resuming. There will be a few less retailers after this is all over, definitely a lot less stores and most likely some different ways that consumers will be comfortable shopping. We’re heading into a new phase of retail. This new phase was brought on not just because of the pandemic but also because of technology. Retail will continue to evolve, and it will survive.
Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I do think curbside pickup is here to stay. It will mean that many retailers will quickly need to figure out how to ease the congestion of cars that will certainly be an issue once most stores are re-opened. This is a huge issue in metro areas like NYC, where driving around the side or the back of the store is not always possible and is the exception and not the rule.

Scott Norris
Guest

Dense metro areas will probably evolve toward instant-delivery as they have in China and Korea. NYC is already oriented toward transit usage and bike delivery so the habit of stopping at a grocery store on the way home and buying a cartload wasn’t ingrained to begin with. (We have been more and more impressed at how quickly Target is upgrading its Shipt service – now getting deliveries in around two hours from time of order!)

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is undoubtedly one of the trends that will stick post-virus. It is a win-win for consumers and retailers. From the shopper point of view, it is convenient and quick; from the retailer point of view, it is more cost-effective than delivering to home.

Target already had great success with its drive-up proposition before the crisis hit. More retailers now see those same benefits and will develop their own permanent propositions.

There is a hurdle of managing the volume at peak times, something even Target sometimes struggles with. You also need to have a suitable area for pickup to happen – preferably not right in front of the store entrance where customers are going in and out. Walmart has created separate areas for pickup which works well.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup was always an opportunity, now it is being emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked about ordering groceries online and picking up the order waiting for us, in pre-assigned parking spaces, on our way home, more than five years ago. It was always a good concept, especially in certain product categories such as grocery stores/supermarkets. As has been the case in many other disciplines and uses of technology, the current situation has accelerated the implementation of new processes, new ideas, new systems, and socio-economic adjustments. Curbside pickup, in one or more forms, is here to stay.

Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Retailers should be careful about “pushing” curbside pickup as an option. Some customers may like it, But the drop off in impulse sales makes this likely just another part of the race to the bottom. The brand experience, discovery, personal connection and more all disappear. Curbside pickup turns the store into just a warehouse. It may be a bedfellow retailers need to live with … but don’t cozy up to it too much.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Exactly Kevin. I’m 110 percent with you. Merchants know it’s about the delivery on brick-and-mortar’s advantages, not throwing it all out the window to be a warehouse.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Buy online and pickup at 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, 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.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

We did a study five years ago on BOPIS and we were shocked at the strength of the results. You can just multiply that by 10 now. It’s no longer a “nice to have.” Pickup at store (where the retailer puts the goods in the trunk, by the way) is now a “must have.”

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

When the government closes your store to browsing and requires only curbside delivery, I think it is safe to say this is why the uptick was so swift. To assume everyone will be doing this at a mall or major store misses the fundamental reason brick-and-mortar can be more profitable – discovery. If stores are reduced to nothing more than warehouses, it simply isn’t sustainable or a competitive advantage. The merchandisers, salespeople, and the rest of staff can juice sales a heck of a lot more than people driving up like an A&W.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Bob, that’s a great point about the risk of turning your store into a warehouse. However, I think that undervalues the brand relationship and loyalty you’re building with that curbside customer. I believe many of the purchases you would get for curbside pickup are purchases that would have gone online or to another competitor. Discovery wouldn’t have been an option for that transaction in the eyes of the shopper. However, the more your customers use the service the more loyalty they’ll have with you and when they are ready to go into a store to shop for something, discovery will happen — but only because you’ve built on the relationship with that shopper. Of course, none of us knows how consumers are going to act in a post-COVID world just yet, so this may all be fantasy at this point!

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Ditto. Customer connections are enhanced — it’s the personal touch and how they hand off the goods that forces a contact and a personal greeting, maybe even a callout by the customers name, where before they may have just gone through a self-checkout or watched as the cashier rung up goods. Curbside improves the customer experience.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I think that’s a bit of a fantasy about loyalty. If I were going to order online, why go through the effort to go through traffic, find a curb to sit at like a taxi cab waiting for someone, somewhere to bring me my purchase? We differ on this and that’s fine.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

I’ve always felt curbside was the front-runner for online order fulfillment — at least in grocery. Curbside pickup is more comfortable and more convenient for mobile shoppers who need flexibility. No melting ice cream on the doorstep if you get home 10 minutes late. No crushed produce from the delivery truck. As for dry goods and hard lines, I think it remains to be seen. But I expect the spread of popularity to continue.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

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.

As people are forced to try new things that they never imagined trying, they discover the positives in many of these new behaviors. In this case, the positives are large and focus on trends that customers value most these days — time and convenience.

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

Curbside services will absolutely remain in demand as more and more consumers take advantage of the experience during this pandemic and realize the inherent benefits and convenience. However, it will be key for retailers to ensure they don’t continue to propagate a makeshift solution that was put in place hastily to address short-term need. Rather, they should take the time to define and develop their own Customer Curbside Journey. This will ensure that a roadmap is constructed with equal parts operational feasibility, technology supportability, and customer value.

Shelley E. Kohan
BrainTrust

Curbside is here to stay as shoppers love the convenience and value this commerce option provides. For retailers, contrary to popular belief, providing pickup and curbside can actually increase sales and shopper frequency. On the Target investor call last month, it was stated that pickup and drive-up have increased traffic by 2.7 percent. The average spend is up 25 percent for shoppers engaging in drive-ups and in-store visits. The sales are complementary and by creating these cross-channel synergies, it can develop a deeper loyalty with the customers.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

That’s a great point about the average spend going up on those target curbside pickup customers! That certainly appears to compensate for any potentially lost upsell or discovery sales you would have gotten from those customers in-store. Of course, it could also just be an uptick due to pandemic related concerns about shopping in-store that may alleviate in a post-COVID world.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup was born out of a crisis but will linger long after it ends. It’s the drive-thru model of QSR adapted for retailers. Consider it an additional convenience offering in a retailer’s menu. It will not be fee-based, but soon will be table stakes.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I hate to be cynical here, but curbside pickup needs to grow up before it can grow out. Scheduling is still a hassle. Substitutions are still problematic. And parking lots are not configured to be loading docks. So if curbside pick-up is the “next big thing” post-COVID, there will have to be lots of changes in physical stores to make it work at scale. Customers will put up with a few hiccups now if it keeps them out of public spaces, but if, or when, we enter a post-COVID period, they are going to go back to demanding pre-COVID service levels.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

As usual, your comments sparked thought. Uncharacteristically, this time I’m not sure I agree with you. Was curbside really sub-optimal prior to COVID-19? So someone brings the groceries to the parking lot and loads them into my vehicle. Wasn’t that what I did before? Does it really require a loading dock? (At IKEA, yes. Ingles, no.) And someone made a substitute when the item I specified on my shopping list was OOS. OK — don’t studies show that the vast majority of the time I would do the same thing rather than go to another store? Maybe they didn’t pick what I would have. OK, negative. But still, on balance isn’t curbside pickup a net positive?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Ben, my brother, I think you may have missed a nuance here. You’ve actually put your finger directly on the problem. Yes, that is what used to happen … on your schedule. You parked where you could, went in the store when you wanted, and, eventually, you put the stuff in your trunk. The difference here is that all that flexibility has been taken out of the current model. You have to pre-order — sometimes days in advance — secure a pick-up time slot, park in certain pre-arranged pick-up zones — too small to meet demand in many, many stores, hence the time slotting issue, and then wait for someone to pop the groceries in your trunk. So, like so much at retail, what I’m addressing isn’t the theory, it’s the execution.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

What Ryan said.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup was a natural growth opportunity prompted by the COVID-19 situation. It provided an opportunity to engage in almost contact-free acquisition of products, plus during the stay at home orders these pickups, particularly for groceries, gave weary “shelter in place” folks a legitimate reason to get out of the house. Just like it is difficult for the cat who has tasted fresh tuna to return to a diet of canned tuna, customers will not want to abandon curbside pick up. It may represent the new normal of fresh tuna or at the very least be perceived as a fresh treat option, like an occasional meal of fresh tuna. Under either scenario curbside pickup is here to stay.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

There is an old saying that the past can predict the future. In this case The old drive-in restaurant with waitresses coming to your car to deliver the order you placed through the speaker in the space you parked. Sounds familiar to the way many restaurants are functioning now during this pandemic. Can it continue? Yes, it is going to have to continue because many people, including me, are not ready to go into a place where others will be seated or working when you have no idea how safe it will be.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Retailers need to take care here. Given how we’ve learned that e-commerce on it’s own can’t replace retail, curbside pickup can’t either — it’s a stop gap which is important during the pandemic but not a solid foundation for the long term.

BOPIS is, in fact, far different because the consumer goes into the store and that brings a whole set of advantages both increasing the size of the purchase being made AND helping the customer envision future purchases.

For survival, retailers need to promote curbside today. I understand. But we need to be careful not to believe the business model is effective.

(As an aside: for all the retailers promoting curbside, it has been my experience that most don’t execute it well enough to be considered “curbside.” I’m still having to go into stores and restaurants to get my stuff.)

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust
The pandemic has undoubtedly increased the number of people trialing curbside pick-up but it already had momentum and was destined to become a major part of the retail strategy anyway. What has happened is more people have now tried it and many of them seem to want to continue using it. The reasons are obvious, so what are the potential risks? First is the inability of retailers to maintain good availability at store level — customers will expect to be able to get what they want when they want it. This is all about convenience and convenience is about not having to try to get what you want many times over when you want it now. Second is the retailer’s ability to handle a growing demand for curbside pick-up — again convenience is not about queuing in a long line of people waiting to pick up your order. The retailers who get this right will see it grow and become a major part of their strategy. It is after all a lot cheaper to offer… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

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. It is not for everyone because some consumers still want to shop in the store and some will want delivery to their home. However, curbside pickup is even more desirable for those fearing theft of packages left at the door. I say the option of curbside pickup is here to stay.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup is a great service and in some ways a lifesaver at this point, but in the long run it could become another problem for retailers who depend on foot traffic and impulse buying. Fewer lookers equal less buying.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

What’s better than picking up online purchases in-store? Not even going into the store and getting it curbside! Yes, curbside is here to stay and becomes the new ultimate convenience for consumers. Just imagine when people go back to their offices and want to pick up a purchase they made during the day on their way home. What the pandemic has done for curbside pickup is to make it a point for building brand loyalty and affinity for consumers. Having this option will end up making the difference for many shoppers in choosing one retailer over the other.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

As a supplement? Fine. As a replacement (for in-store shopping/purchasing)? No. Leaving aside the fact that this is basically online selling, there’s no mystery as to why. A store which may do anywhere from a few to several dozen transactions in a short time span can only do one curbside pickup (even in the charmingly uneventful depiction shown in the video) in that same time span … do the math.

Martin Mehalchin
BrainTrust

The pandemic is accelerating the growth of curbside as a standard option offered to the consumer. The challenge is to execute it as a well designed, seamless experience that is also efficient within the retailer’s operating model. We are working with several clients who’ve stood up improvised curbside offerings in the last 30 days to design the long term experience and model.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

…and those that execute a well designed, seamless experience that is also efficient within the retailer’s operating model will be big winners. Those who can’t will lose business to those who do.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Some of the shoppers who tried curbside during the pandemic will stay with it after the virus is vanquished due to the convenience factor. But most will not because of several issues: frequent “substitutions” of ordered products (were they not in stock or the buyer couldn’t find them); products whose “use by” date is too close to the ordering day; spotty service; picked produce doesn’t look attractive enough, etc.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup adoption has been pushed further by the pandemic as it provides a way for retailers who are closed to continue doing business and those who are open to engage more safely. Current initiatives will set the stage for continued operations with curbside, but mostly it will be retailers putting in place processes to enable this convenience for customers into the future.

Some retailers will rely more on curbside while others less so over time — but it will be a strong component of the retail world going forward. Challenges will come in the form of process, complicated inventory, pick and pack issues in the store, and distribution and tracking, as well as other operational issues. Most retailers will eventually turn to using technology to solve part of their problem and only reliable, high quality solutions will work.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Curbside pickup was growing prior to the pandemic, and it will only continue to increase beyond this crisis. Retailers need only adapt as they continually need to, as the consumer demands evolve. This is nothing new.

gordon arnold
Guest

There are many cost savings necessities to explore for 21st century direct to consumer sales. Fulfillment is the real land of opportunity for the now and in the immediate future. When we add the cost of $15.00/hr. minimum wage and the time it takes to pick a small order in a big box store to a price per item competitive crunch the demand is crushing profits. There are significant gains in lowering shrink and distress tasking but not nearly enough to offset the overhead increases. Largely because of the percentage to these two issues owned by the employees. Computer controlled material handling and floor-ready manufacturer reload packaging will be key in optimizing these needs.

Big box stores will surely need to rethink the floor plans they still love too much. Gas and goes will see huge new profits if and when they successively reinvent how to provide for a more alluring impulse item shopping experience(s) — maybe at the pump.

mobilehigh5
Guest
4 months 17 days ago

This is precisely why an SMS text notification system upon arrival makes so much sense. We’ve been helping our clients set this up to streamline their curbside bottlenecks.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Even after consumers go back to work, the idea of curbside pickup on the way home will remain a strong trend in the months to come."
"For retailers, contrary to popular belief, providing pickup and curbside can actually increase sales and shopper frequency."
"In the long run it could become another problem for retailers who depend on foot traffic and impulse buying. Fewer lookers equal less buying."

Take Our Instant Poll

How would you rate the growth potential across retail for curbside pickup?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...