Does curbside retail have a future post-lockdown?

Curbside pickup gained prominence during the pandemic because of social distancing — but will it continue to be a viable strategy after COVID restrictions end?

Women on her way to collect her parcel from the shop

Curbside retail — a type of click & collect strategy that allows customers to place an order online, then pick it up at the curb — has boomed during the pandemic. 

This “contactless collection” option gained popularity because it offers a way for both employees and customers to abide by social distancing guidelines.

And curbside shopping has been lucrative: Retailers in Australia and around the world that implemented the option during COVID largely thrived. In the U.S., for example, Target reported curbside sales growth of over 700% in Q4 2020, and Best Buy saw more than $2 billion in revenue from curbside or in-store pickup in Q2 2020.

The question on most retailers’ minds now is whether curbside pickup will stick. With vaccines rolling out and many parts of the world reopening, is there still a place for curbside retail?

 

The difference between curbside retail and click & collect

Curbside retail is a subcategory of the click & collect model — sometimes called “BOPIS” (buy online pick up in store). Both curbside and click & collect allow shoppers to make purchases online, then pick up orders at a store. 

With click & collect, customers typically go inside the store to receive their order at a checkout counter or pickup desk, whereas curbside shopping lets customers park in a designated area and wait in their vehicle. Usually, customers check in with an employee through the car window or online via their smartphone, and their orders are brought out to the car.

 

Pros and cons of curbside shopping vs. in-store pickup 

There are a number of ways that curbside shopping outshines in-store pickup, as well as a few ways in which it falls short.

 

PROS

  • Convenience: With curbside pickup, a customer never has to leave their car, nor deal with crowds of shoppers.
  • Accommodates large orders: A customer might already need assistance getting to their car with items like groceries or furniture; curbside eliminates this extra step. 
  • Reduces in-store foot traffic: Curbside helps lower volume at busy registers while improving the shopping experience for in-store customers.

CONS:

  • Requires a designated parking area: Curbside may be difficult to implement in areas with limited parking real estate.
  • Harder to upsell: Curbside customers don’t see in-store merchandise displays that might lead to add-on purchases.
  • More difficult to coordinate: Effectively managing check-ins and ensuring the right orders go to the right vehicles requires more advanced technology than traditional click & collect. 

 

Of course, retailers don’t have to choose between curbside and in-store pickup; they can offer both.

 

curbside_pickup

 

Does curbside retail have a future?

Experts believe that curbside retail is here to stay.

“I think consumers discovered this newfound convenience and they will actually stick to curbside, which has massive implications, as you can imagine, for retail,” predicts Sajal Kohli, a senior partner at McKinsey.

It’s clear from the revenue boosts many companies saw last year that curbside retail can be a competitive edge over rivals who don’t offer the convenience.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, for one, experienced a record Q2 2020, with 75% of online orders fulfilled by stores, and even after it reopened stores last June, curbside continued to thrive. CEO Ed Stack expects the segment to grow beyond the pandemic.

Similarly, after Best Buy shifted to a curbside-only model in March 2020, it saw online sales jump 242% in Q2. Although Best Buy reopened stores last June, CEO Corie Barry reported that curbside would actually be enhanced to provide more functionality and convenience for customers.

The bottom line: In today’s world, customers want all the options they can get, and curbside retail is an easy, convenient option for retailers to offer. 

 

How you can implement curbside shopping

Localz can help you build click & collect into your retail strategy and implement curbside pickup for an enhanced customer experience. 

With automated check-ins and alerts, our order collection technology ensures the entire curbside shopping experience is seamless. 

 

Download the free guide to improve contactless collection experience and streamline operations this peak season