Should You Consider Curbside Pickup?



I remember back in college, working as a waitress at an Outback Steakhouse and watching the meals go out for curbside pickup. People called in an order, we cooked it, and it was ready and waiting when they arrived.

Since then, an awful lot of other brick-and-mortar businesses have jumped on the chance to boost sales while helping shoppers that are on the go.

I can call ahead at most of the local grocery stores or use their websites to place an order and have it delivered to my car when I arrive, without ever setting foot in the store. But I haven’t yet found a pet store in my area that does the same—even though I’d much prefer to have a big bag of dog food loaded for me than a few bags of groceries.

With so many ecommerce pet retailers that deliver within 24 hours or that offer auto-ship programs that charge and send a bag of food on a recurring basis without the shopper even having to think about their bag running low, curbside certainly seems like an opportunity pet stores can capitalize on to help them remain competitive. 

So, what’s involved?

Setting Up an Ordering System
The first and perhaps most important part of the process is determining an ordering system. If shoppers have to call in, then you’ll need someone available to handle the phone calls. 

If you decide to create an ordering system on your website, then you’ll need to invest some money up front to add this functionality, and you will need to ensure the data on the site stays up to date with what’s actually in stock in store. 

In either case, you’ll also need someone to walk around the store to fulfill the orders, pulling together the items each shopper requests. Further, someone will need to be available to actually bring the items to “the curb” when a customer arrives for their order.

You’ll want to do some research into what the average service fees for this type of service are in your area—here in Raleigh, N.C., they seem to sit around $4.95 per pickup, with many stores waiving the fee for first-time users.

The Downsides to Curbside
Of course, nothing is ever perfect. I already touched on the extra bit of investment you’ll need to make either in technology or in staff or in both—and you’ll need to spend some time and effort getting the word out about the new service.

But there’s another downside to curbside too. If you bring the things out to the customer, they never step foot in your store. That means no chance for a last minute impulse purchase. No chance to “wow” them with your in depth expertise or customer service. No “grabbing an extra bag of treats” last minute. 

When curbside customers talk about what they like about using the service, many often say they wind up spending less money on things they didn’t really need. While that sounds nice, it also expresses something that may be a real concern for retailers: a decreased basket-value. 

Is it Right for You?
If you’re considering adding the service to your store, do your research. Talk to your customers. And see if, ultimately, you think the added convenience for customers will be worth the extra work on the part of you and your staff. 


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