Curbside pickup lets your customers make an order online and pick it up at your store, warehouse, or designated pickup location. It’s similar to buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), except the customer never has to leave their vehicle. When they arrive, you or your sales staff bring the order out to their car.
Due to its convenience and consumer demand, curbside pickup is likely here to stay. In fact, according to OnlineDasher, there was a 66% increase in online shoppers using curbside pickup in 2022.
Curbside pickup helps you bridge the gap between online and in-person shopping by giving customers the option to choose local pickup as a delivery method at checkout.
But how can you execute curbside pickup at your retail store?
In this article, you’ll discover what curbside pickup is, how it works, and its advantages. Plus, you’ll see examples of local retailers making curbside pickup work for their business.
What is curbside pickup?
Curbside pickup is a service offered by retailers where a customer places an order online and drives to their local store to pick it up. The customer parks in a designated area near the store entrance, and when the order is ready, a store associate brings the customer's order out to them.
The convenience curbside pickup provides for shoppers has turned this option into a powerful way for retailers to strengthen their omnichannel retail sales strategy.
Adoption of curbside pickup was accelerated by the pandemic, but the popularity of this service continues to grow.
“Adoption of curbside pickup was accelerated by the pandemic, but the popularity of this service continues to grow,” says Jonathan Roque, digital marketing and content strategist for Zapiet. “This is thanks to the incredible convenience it provides both merchants and their customers.”
This order fulfillment service is a way to increase sales and customer satisfaction. It might be easier for retail giants like Target and Walmart to implement, but if you’re starting out or expanding into more locations, there are also solutions you can use to offer your customers curbside pickup.
How does curbside pickup work?
For customers who don’t want to wait for delivery or prefer not to pay for shipping, curbside pickup is a great alternative. After the customer completes their order online, they can drive by your storefront, warehouse, or pickup point to pick it up—and they can remain in their car the entire time. It helps reduce shipping costs, saves time, and is convenient.
Here’s how curbside pickup might look in your retail store:
- The customer shops via your website, and during the checkout process they have the option to select curbside pickup.
- The customer completes payment online via your ecommerce website.
- You receive a notification for the order and can prioritize packing it.
- Once you’ve confirmed that the inventory is in stock, you send a notification to the customer letting them know it’s ready for curbside pickup. At this time, you also tell them what to do once they arrive. For example, if they should call or text you when they’re at the curb.
- When the customer arrives to pick up their order, you or your staff go out to their car to hand it over.
- The customer drives off feeling instant gratification because they didn’t have to wait for delivery. You’re done!
Setting up curbside pickup services may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. That’s why we make it quick and easy for local retailers to implement this order fulfillment service—follow the steps below to set up curbside pickup for your store.
The operations of curbside pickup—how to get it right
Curbside pickup can make online ordering easier and more efficient, and reduce shipping costs for customers. But if you don’t execute it properly, it could lead to a disappointing experience for shoppers and lost sales for you.
Let’s look at the operational aspects of curbside pickup.
Manage curbside pickup with the right people and space
Whether it’s you or your sales staff, assigning curbside pickup management to one (or a few people) is crucial. Someone needs to be there to review and pack orders, notify customers that they’re ready for pickup, and hand off the items at the curb.
Make a dedicated space in your retail store for pickup orders to stay organized.
“Make a dedicated space in your retail store for pickup orders to stay organized,” says Allison Mistakidis, co-founder of Whiskeyjack. “Also, use the Shopify POS app to manage and mark orders available for pickup once they’re packed and ready to go. This way, the customer gets a notification that it’s ready.”
If you don’t sync your online and offline inventory, curbside pickup could be a disaster. The last thing you want is to disappoint a customer who makes an order online for curbside pickup and then receives a notification that the item isn’t actually in stock.
“Our number one tip is to make sure your inventory is correct, because having a customer order a product that’s not physically in the store would be a bummer,” says Allison.
Notify customers once their order is ready
Manually reviewing online orders and sending emails or texts to customers letting them know it’s ready for pickup is time-consuming. That’s why we’ve created a curbside pickup feature for Shopify POS that lets you efficiently manage and track all pickup orders placed online and notify customers when they’re ready.
Make it easy for customers to notify you when they arrive for pickup
The whole idea behind curbside pickup is that your customers can wait for you in their car. If you don’t know they’ve arrived, they might get impatient and come inside to let you know they’re curbside. To avoid this, you’ll need a way for customers to notify you once they arrive. After a customer places an order online and pulls up to your store, you can have them call or text you and then you can bring their order out to their car.
For example, when you send them a notification telling them their order is ready for pickup, include a note saying, “Let us know once you’ve arrived by calling or texting 555-555-5555 with your order number.”
Allocate a designated place where customers can wait for their order
Depending on where your store is located, you may be able to reserve a parking spot close to your store for curbside pickup. Or if it’s not a high-traffic area, customers can line up in front of your store. The key here is to make sure the pickup location is explained and easy to find when they arrive. You also want to make sure you’re not blocking traffic.
Advertise, advertise, and advertise some more
Spending time and energy devising a curbside pickup plan won’t be worth it unless you also create a marketing and advertising strategy to build awareness for pickup availability. You can spread the word via your newsletter, social media, or website, and by including the details on your checkout page.
Be vocal on social media about the option for curbside pickup to ensure customers know when you’re available.
“Be vocal on social media about the option for curbside pickup to ensure customers know when you’re available,” says Allison. “Include details that indicate pickup options on your checkout page, in your order confirmation emails, and in general marketing emails. Customers will use this service if they know it’s available!”
Retailers who offer curbside pickup and how they do it
Large retailers like Nordstrom, Walmart, and Target may have been the first to offer curbside pickup, but this order fulfillment option is vital for retailers of all sizes.
Today, smaller retailers are gradually embracing this service. They make it work by advertising curbside pickup options via their ecommerce website and social media.
Clothes Mentor sells gently used name-brand and designer clothing. The brand offers shipping and curbside pickup options. When customers get to the checkout page, they see an option to ship or to pick up.
Whiskeyjack Boutique sells Canadian-made gifts and is currently only offering curbside shopping and pickup.
We use the Shopify POS to manage all of our online orders and curbside pickups.
“We use the Shopify POS to manage all of our online orders and curbside pickups,” says Allison. “We’re able to print the delivery slips to attach to the orders, which makes them easy to find when the customer arrives for pickup.”
Whiskeyjack Boutique also advertises its curbside pickup options via Instagram and provides clear details about what customers can expect from its curbside pickup services. This includes the days and hours it will be available and where customers can pick up orders.
True North Yarn Co.
True North Yarn Co. advertises curbside pickup on its website and via Instagram. Customers who live locally can select “free curbside pickup” at checkout and a staff member contacts the customer when their order is ready.
Caboose Boutique offers free shipping if you spend more than $100, but curbside pickup is free, no matter how much you spend. Customers go through the usual checkout experience, but they can choose curbside pickup instead of shipping.
What are the advantages of curbside pickup?
It’s easy to see why curbside pickup was a safer option for you and your customers during the pandemic. But even without the need for social distancing, this trend is continuing to grow for a range of reasons.
Here are a few benefits of offering curbside pickup:
Faster and more convenient order fulfillment
Providing more choices for order fulfillment allows customers to enjoy (almost) instant gratification in the same way they would if they were shopping in-store. And with curbside pickup, you can meet this demand so customers can get their orders faster.
Better customer experience and satisfaction
By adapting to changes in consumer behavior and offering more delivery and pickup options, you’ll satisfy more customers. Happy customers are more likely to come back again and also tell their friends and family about your store. So, in theory, curbside pickup can also lead to customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
We all know how frustrating it is when you’re waiting in excitement for a package and then you either miss the delivery or it’s delayed. With curbside pickup, this obstacle is eliminated. Customers can pick up their order at a time that works best for them, without having to wait at home so they don’t miss a delivery.
No shipping fees
When it comes to shipping fees, curbside pickup is advantageous for both you and your customers. There are no shipping costs for shoppers, and you may also save on the cost of packaging.
It’s better for the environment
The added bonus of offering curbside pickup services is that this order fulfillment option is environmentally friendly—it reduces carbon emissions caused by delivery and shipments.
It encourages customers to shop locally
Many people are realizing the value of shopping locally. In fact, our research shows that 65% of consumers support small businesses. Their main reasons for buying locally are strengthening the local economy (57%), helping support local job creation (41%), and investing in their community (35%).
Offering curbside pickup at your local retail boutique gives your community more options to fulfill their desires to shop locally.
Will curbside pickup last?
While curbside pickup began as a safety measure to keep staff and customers safe, it’s growing in popularity due to the fact that it makes the shopping experience more convenient for customers. As consumer behavior continues to evolve, customers are continuing to appreciate the flexibility and ease that comes with curbside pickup services.
Zapiet, a Shopify partner app that helps merchants offer curbside pickup, believes this order fulfillment option is here to stay, and its steady growth in monthly installs proves it.
From a purely economic point of view, curbside pickup can save merchants money by eliminating shipping and delivery costs as well as reducing their returns.
“It has rapidly become an option customers expect to see at checkout, thanks to its convenience, environmental benefits, and adoption by all major retailers,” says Jonathan.
“From a purely economic point of view, curbside pickup can save merchants money by eliminating shipping and delivery costs as well as reducing their returns. Also, by allowing customers to schedule pickups ahead of time, it is possible for merchants to increase their order volumes without having to increase their retail space or team size.”
Retailers including Whiskeyjack Boutique will continue offering this service post-pandemic. “We’ll definitely continue offering curbside pickup. We love the option it gives our customers to shop online and pick up if they prefer,” says Allison.
There are a handful of Shopify partner apps available to help you offer curbside pickup so you can keep up with consumer demand.
Should you offer curbside pickup at your retail store?
If you’re considering setting up curbside pickup order fulfillment options at your retail store, you can start by asking yourself the following questions to decide if it’s right for your business:
- Do you have the resources to offer curbside pickup? Will your staff manage it or will it be your responsibility?
- Is there curb space or parking near your store for customers to wait while you or your staff bring out their orders?
- Are you using a POS that provides the right technology to synchronize your inventory and keep track of omnichannel orders?
If you feel confident that you can accomplish the above and successfully manage curbside pickup services, it’s worth trying it out. Giving your customers the option to shop online and pick up at the curb can help you build strong customer relationships and give your retail business an edge over your competitors.
When you’re ready to get started, try Shopify POS to provide a seamless shopping experience for your customers both in-store and online, and you’ll be all set to manage local pickup for online orders.