Curbside Pickup: What's the big deal?

Curbside Pickup: What's the big deal?

It’s 1947, along Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri a gas station becomes a down-home joint called Red’s Giant Hamburg. America’s first drive-thru restaurant. Since then, the concept of the drive-thru restaurant has been staple to the (fast food) restaurant business. The curbside pickup service emerged as an extended branch of the drive-thru model, and in part thanks to the pandemic, it’s been the buzz amongst restaurants and supermarket chains. But really, what gives? What’s made curbside pickups popular?

Time to explore why they’re worth talking about and seeing what the fuss is.

What is a curbside pickup?

Here’s an attempt at a straightforward and uncomplicated answer. The idea of a curbside pickup service is that you can order products online for pick up at a local store.

Let’s illustrate just in case that’s not clear. After placing an order online, you’ll drive and pick up your order at the store - let’s say it’s your weekly groceries - without getting out of the car because friendly shop employee Kevin is there to load your purchase(s), give you the thumbs up, and send you on your way (thanks Kev).

Kev

For the shopper, this type of service is convenient and time-efficient, while for the retailer it’s cost-efficient, as it eliminates the need to deliver to homes. And the latter part is why curbside pickups have…picked up (*dad joke energy*).

Take Aldi, who have their own grocery curbside pick-up service through their website and app. They allow you to place an order, select a pickup location and desired timeframe, and will meet you at a designated location indicated as a blue curbside space once you follow the instructions upon arrival. Lowes offers a similar service for online ordering, giving their customers the option to select “FREE store Pickup”. Once an order is placed, the customer will receive a “Ready for Pickup” confirmation email. The customer will drive to the store they chose to pick up from and park in a designated curbside pickup location that is indicated by a bright blue sign. On the sign is a number for the customer to call and an employee will bring their purchase(s) to the customer’s vehicle.

A concise summary of Aldi's curbside service from their website

The reason stores like Aldi and Lowe’s adopted this service had to do with the demand for delivery skyrocketing in the pandemic. When people had to stay home, delivery was met with a lot of delays and logistic issues. Right now there is less pressure on delivery services than in the last two years but many companies have indicated that they will stick to curbside pickups as a viable permanent option.

How do we know they’ll stick to them? We may need some numbers to drive the point home here. Back in 2020 Medallia Zingle conducted a survey, COVID-19 And The Future Of Commerce, and found that 87% of people want restaurants and other brands to continue their curbside pick-up service and other processes that eliminate in-person visits whenever the pandemic is over. In conclusion, there is demand for it.

3 ways geofencing and location accuracy are used to give quality customer service

So far, we’ve described curbside pickups as this simple, efficient, and seamless service. Not to say you’ve been misled but as the old saying goes: “in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not” - Einstein (credible sources only here at Roam). Surprise, this applies to curbside pickups too. Some businesses have struggled with timing, communication, and delays- making the overall experience not as ideal as it could be.

So, how do you streamline the curbside pickup service? Wait, let’s bring back Kevin, it’s fun. Take two, how do you make sure from the second a customer places an online order that friendly shop employee Kevin is at the right location to hand over the goods on time? Here we go, the part of the blog where we talk about how this relates to what we do at Roam. Location technology brings a lot to the curbside pickup table.

1. Alerting the employee

With the help of geofencing, businesses can set up a digital barrier of a selected geographical area. That way, when a customer enters the geofencing zone, friendly shop employee Kevin automatically gets a notification on his phone for when the customer arrives at the store. Kev is now informed, has time to prepare, and will be at the designated delivery location on time so the customer doesn’t have to wait too long (look at him go).

Remember we talked about Aldi and Lowes earlier? They require the customer to follow instructions from the designated parking space and only then will an employee be alerted. Not to slander them, they’ve got a fine system, but I get the feeling that if the employee knows that the customer has arrived before the customer has to alert them, the process of delivery would go faster (and customer satisfaction will rise).

2. Improve quality and timing through location technology

For restaurants, geofencing can help them prioritize orders by delivering fresh and warm food. To maintain the quality and freshness of their food, restaurants need to have their orders ready at the right time for their customers. With geofences, they can have their orders prepared based on how far away the customer is from the restaurant location. Sounds great right? You’ll never have to be disappointed with a cold pizza again. To do this you’ll need accurate location technology and for that, you’ll need the right location SDK embedded into your mobile app (we know a guy, spoiler it’s us). Greater location accuracy → better quality and on-time food.

3. Adaptation of service

In some cases, having a pickup in front of the store is not always ideal. Should that occur, you’ll need to instruct the customer to an alternative location nearby. Relying on the location accuracy of Native iOS and Android location services you can come across inaccurate and imprecise location data. If the accuracy of the alternative location isn't correct, that can cause confusion and delays for both customer and employee. How is Kevin going to track and find your customer in their car when the location service is inadequate? Think about using accurate location technology, so that Kev can make sure he meets the customer on time, and at the right location without delay.

You don't want Kev looking like this because he's relying on native iOS and Android location services

Looking Ahead

If it hasn’t been obvious, the sentiment of this blog is that curbside pickups are here to stay. I mean, we’re talking about them two years after they were a “hot topic” in the pandemic.

In the end, the service is a simple one to adopt but difficult to have functioning efficiently. If it’s to continue to be a viable delivery option, it’ll need to be improved. Timing, communication, and delays are factors that can seriously slow down the demand for curbside pickups and that could lead to it being shelved as a pandemic trend and temporary solution to home delivery and in-store visits. We think improved location accuracy and geofencing technology can prevent that from happening and should be integral to a successful curbside pickup service.

If you’re interested in what we do at Roam, and are looking for ways to improve your curbside pickup, check out what we offer and sign up to our dashboard and try out Roam.ai’s SDK for free!

Questions?

If you’re interested in integrating and improving your location-based app, contact us today with any questions and we’ll be happy to help!