Can you remember what traditional in-store shopping used to be like? You'd visit a store, tour the floor, choose your product, pay and then walk out with it. Often with heavy bags and bulky boxes. Not the case these days, since we now have two order fulfilment options that make life a lot easier.
Curbside delivery and pickup services aren't brand-new concepts for physical stores and sellers with tangible products. But they've gained traction in recent years, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic and the requirement for contactless delivery. Consumers in younger age brackets are also driving the trend for these fulfilment options – for example, two out of three millennials preferred curbside pickup in 2022.
This article describes curbside delivery and pickup and how close communication with customers is vital to these processes.
What are curbside delivery and pickup?
Curbside delivery and pickup are modern order fulfilment options. The latter requires a bit more effort on the customer's part as they must leave home to collect their order.
What is curbside fulfilment?
As the name suggests, curbside fulfilment is where an ordered item is delivered to the customer's curbside (but not necessarily the doorstep). This option is highly convenient and often utilised when customers order large items, such as a washing machine or furniture – any product that's bulky to handle and collect from a physical store. It's often a paid-for service.
The process typically works like this:
The customer places an order online or in-store.
The store notifies them via SMS, email or phone call as to an expected delivery date.
A shipping confirmation message is also sent when the order is on its way.
The curbside delivery service drops off the item at the customer's curb, often requiring a signature upon delivery (from an adult) if it's a fragile or expensive item. Payment may also be taken at this point.
The delivery person may then deliver the item to the doorstep or inside the building, depending on the product's weight and suitability for manoeuvre. (Usually as an extra add-on service).
How a curbside pickup service differs
Curbside pickup is where the customer collects an ordered item from the store or seller's curb. Customers can order online from anywhere and are then provided with an estimated pickup time by the seller – it might be the same day within a few hours of ordering, or a few days or weeks later.
The customer arrives at the curbside location and informs the seller of their arrival. The seller brings out the purchased item to the curb and hands it over to the customer. It could be handed through the window or popped into the trunk. Usually, the item is paid for in advance, especially if it's a custom order.
Why customers prefer curbside delivery and pickup
Curbside delivery and pickup are popular fulfilment options for customers because they offer convenience. Customers out for the day can continue to browse stores without having to carry shopping bags – or having to lug large boxes back to the car. Or they can receive their order without leaving the house at all.
These fulfilment services save time, especially when shopping online. There's nothing more frustrating than visiting a store to buy a particular product only to find out it's not in stock. Shopping online provides more choice and convenience, and the customer receives their order when they want it.
Other benefits of offering these fulfilment methods include:
Shopping can be contactless or with only minimal contact – this was essential during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic – and some people still prefer to limit their contact with others even now.
Easy and efficient for customers, as they don't have to worry about arranging delivery themselves and trying to find a trusted and reliable third-party courier to get bulky items back to their homes or offices.
Curbside pickup is also cost-effective, as customers don't need to pay a delivery charge.
How to start offering curbside pickup and delivery
There are three crucial elements you need in place to offer a curbside pickup/delivery process. These are:
A reliable digital shopping portal where you can showcase your products and take customer orders. Usually, this is an e-commerce website, but you can also set up a basic landing page or even a WhatsApp catalogue to do this job. Or, even simpler – take orders via SMS or phone call.
A convenient pickup location which customers can easily access by vehicle and wait safely to pickup orders. It needs to have enough space to avoid queues outside your premises – convenience for the customer is key – they'll want to pick up and drive straight off.
A robust communication channel – communicating with customers is central to making curbside delivery and pickup successful. Choose a business comms channel that suits both you and your customers.
SMS is an excellent channel to consider, as texting offers many advantages. SMS is very reliable, with high delivery and open rates, which means the chances of customers missing your messages are virtually zero. But at the same time, texts aren't as intrusive as a phone call – customers can read your message in seconds and then get on with their day.
Texting customers is easy once you choose a provider that can integrate with your order management or CRM system. Messente, for instance, offers an SMS API that can connect seamlessly with hundreds of different apps.
Here's the best process to follow when you have an SMS provider on board:
When customers place their order, send them an order confirmation text with their purchase details and a tentative curbside pickup or delivery date and time.
As the delivery date nears, send a reminder text to reiterate the proposed delivery or pickup time – this gives customers a chance to rearrange the time if needed and reminds them that they need to be home to accept their parcel or collect it from store.
If the customer chooses to pick up their order, allow them to text you to let you know they're outside and ready to collect. (You'll need two-way SMS enabled for this.)
If collecting payment on delivery or pickup, set up ID verification via SMS as a security feature. This enables you to ensure the order goes to the right person. Simply text the customer a unique PIN code before or during pickup/delivery, and have them enter the code into your online system to verify themselves.
Offer convenience with curbside delivery and pickup
Curbside pickup and delivery services offer many benefits for customers who order heavy or bulky items. They can choose the date and time to receive their order and either have it delivered to their curbside or collect at their convenience.
Customer communication is essential to manage the fulfilment of orders successfully. One of the best channels to consider is SMS because texts are highly visible, quick to read and not intrusive. And if you integrate an SMS API into your order management system, you should be able to automate specific messages like order confirmations, delivery notifications and reminders (thus saving time).