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Understanding Your Customer Curbside Journey

Curbside pickup is certainly not a new concept, having been utilized successfully by brands such as Target, Bloomin’ Brands, and Walmart for the past few years. However, COVID-19 has brought about new challenges which has heightened both adoption and awareness of this service as it solves the inherent problem of complying with social distancing guidelines and no-contact pickup when implemented properly. And amidst this new reality for retail, businesses have been under the gun to provide make-shift solutions to ensure their stores remain operational and provide customers with a safe and secure solution for product ordering, payment and pickup.

"Curbside services will likely remain in demand as more consumers take advantage of the experience and realize the inherent benefits."

Even though there is no way to predict if curbside pickup will be temporary or permanent solutions in the future for many retailers, it is fair to assume curbside services will likely remain in demand as more consumers take advantage of the experience and realize the inherent benefits given the influx of these solutions being deployed by U.S. retailers and restaurants during this pandemic.

With so many variables to consider and the immediate need for a solution, it’s critical for business leaders to take the time to evaluate their brand's Customer Curbside Journey. The goal of this activity is to ensure a curbside pickup plan is well constructed with equal parts operational feasibility, technology supportability and customer value. Ultimately, the curbside customer journey should be a strategic roadmap geared towards efficiently implementing a curbside experience for both the consumer and the associates responsible for operational execution. When beginning this exercise, here are a few suggestions to consider.

Leverage Technology

Retailers need to ascertain what current technology is useable and what future technological tools and functionalities are needed to provide a repeatable positive experience for the customer and associates. It has been RCP's experience that these discussions need to go beyond simply traditional POS technology and extend to the company's overall IT and customer journey strategies. Retailers should evaluate what software and hardware solutions they have in place in their back-office which may prove valuable. Many companies have been able to leverage handheld devices which were primarily used for in-store receiving or inventory counting.

  • Mobile Solutions & Visibility. First, look at solutions which allow customers to place, track, and receive updates on their orders. Second, provide staff with the ability to fulfill, communicate, and service curbside customers from anywhere on store property. All-in-one, third-party platform solutions such as Shipt provide workers with the capability to receive, fulfill, confirm, and deliver an order from a mobile device.

  • Customer Recognition & Location. The faster a store can locate guests, know when they are en-route, prepare their order, and have it ready to deliver to their vehicle once the customer arrives, the better the overall experience. Location services such as geofencing and mobile GPS are readily available technology tools to help make this capability a reality.

Focus on the Business Process

Ultimately, even the most advanced technology can be moot if there isn't a great customer experience defined, and most customers agree it is usually the small details during the experience which ultimately make the process positive or negative. So, when evaluating how to alter the store or restaurant to ensure a positive impression on the customer or patron, it is critical not to overlook even the most common aspects found within the process. Simple components of the curbside formula -- such as a dedicated location for customer pickup, helpful signage, an efficient way to collect payments and distribute receipts -- are easy to implement and can go a long way towards ensuring a consistent and positive customer experience.

Generate Awareness & Encourage Participation

With more and more companies offering curbside pickup, differentiation and messaging is a necessity if a brand’s curbside initiative is going to be successful. One approach is to launch a dedicated marketing campaign to generate consumer awareness along with the key benefits the service provides. For example, Walmart's recent campaign shows many well-known customers pulling up to their local Walmart with employees eagerly waiting with their orders ready to go. Other approaches to capture curbside orders include leveraging targeted promotions or reward campaigns to customers recently taking part in the service. Some ideas to consider are providing discounts on first or subsequent orders, curbside exclusive items, or extra reward points for loyal customers. A key component of customer satisfaction with curbside pickup has been setting, communicating and meeting experience expectations especially around timing.

"An effective Customer Curbside Journey will be constructed with equal parts operational feasibility, technology supportability and customer value."

Moving Forward

The immediate need for curbside pickup caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might have been unforeseen; however, the lasting impacts could help define the new normal for many retailers moving forward. Make-shift solutions put in place quickly might be good enough to get by, but how industry leaders turn this forced initiative into a competitive advantage starts with the strategies uncovered when evaluating their customer’s curbside journey. RCP has successfully worked with many forward-thinking brands to help define their customer journey process and we can help with designing, developing and implementing those initiatives. Reach out to us at to learn more about our innovative customer journey mapping process and proven agile methodologies.

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