2020 has been a year of many surprises. From the arrival of a pandemic to embracing the 'new normal'; it seems everything has changed.

One such change has also occurred in the world of e-commerce; the adoption of the socially-distanced way of shopping — Curbside Pickup.

What is Curbside Pickup?

Not a new concept, curbside pickup has been a part of retail from as far back as 1921. It began with carhops, initiated by a chain in Texas called "The Pig Stand". As customers found a new way to dine-out – with "out" meaning literally eating in their cars outside the diner – it seems this was only the beginning.

So, what is curbside pickup, really?

It’s true to its name: a pickup of goods from the curb situated outside your store.

Essentially, this means that customers can opt to pick up their online orders from a location close and convenient to them, instead of awaiting shipment at home.

Why Was There a Need for Curbside Pickup?

As e-commerce gains pace and online businesses continue to roll in, it seems customers are not entirely embracing the shift to online means. Many customers still want their products to come from a physical location.

As per a survey by Statista, it was found that 41% online shoppers abandoned their cart because delivery charges were higher than their expectations, while 26% never placed the order because of longer delivery times.

Together, this accounts for a massive 67% of shoppers who abandoned their carts because of delivery issues!

As a way to combat this, curbside pickup began gaining popularity as a way to combine e-commerce and retail to give a brilliant fusion of the two.

Walmart embraced the change in 2013 by offering a free pickup from its store in Denver – and others have followed suit ever since.

What Is the Difference Between Curbside Pickup and In-Store Pickup?

When deciding forms of package pickups in the world of shopping, two come to mind: Curbside and In-Store pickup.

The difference among them is exactly as their names entail. While the former involves a delivery of the goods to the curb by an employee of the store where the customer awaits, the latter involves the customer walking into the store for retrieval of the order. Therefore, overall, the difference among the two is trivial. Yet, when you get into the depth of them both, it seems the curb delivery option is especially liked by customers due to the convenience it upholds. However, having a delivery person for curbside pickup, and separate parking space for cars of customers presents its own set of logistical challenges.

How Does Curbside Pickup Complement Online Shopping?

Retailers and customers alike think:

Isn't the point of online shopping supposed to be getting your goods delivered home, rather than having to go for a pickup?

While this may be true – it is but a partial truth. As an expansion to the earlier meaning of shopping online, curbside pickup retail is merely another option of convenience for customers, while assisting and encouraging sales. The convenience of picking up your order within minutes of your order instead of waiting for the order to arrive in the mail is what makes it so powerful.

For some customers the ability within minutes to find what they were looking for, order it, and pick it up is a delightful experience. Not everyone enjoys the full shopping experience of walking and browsing through the store. Some might just want a particular product at a certain time and both curbside or in-store pickup are a great customer experience for them.

The Logistical Challenges of Curbside Pickup

As easy as curbside pickup may sound, once the retailer gets into its technicalities, they realize: the curbside pickup retail method thrives with technology usage but depicts great logistical constraints if performed manually.

  • Limited Pickup Options

Unless your business is a large one like Walmart, there may not be too many areas where you could offer curbside pickup. If customers begin asking for an additional spot, or the parking area in your one and only brick-and-mortar shop turns short – you may be at a loss of options.

  • Employee Confusions

If you cannot afford to dedicate an entirely new department to curbside pickup, fusing it with an already burdened workforce may result in confusion. Wrong pickups may prevail as employees loading the goods in the car forget the customer and their parking space.

  • Order Inaccuracies

In case of manual orders or an ineffective POS/ERP platform, orders can be missed and loaded into cars inaccurately. From loading the wrong order to an incomplete one – curbside pickup may become difficult without the right technology.

If the logistical challenges of curbside pickup are not dealt with correctly; they could end up tarnishing business reputation and decreasing sales, instead of enhancing them.

Channel management solutions like SQQUID can solve all of these issues. Not only ensure order accuracy and no missed orders, but also virtually connect your shop with your website to clearly state available inventory, and pickup options.

Curbside Pickup Categories to Know: BOPIS v/s BOSS

If the curbside pickup seems like a retail method you would employ in your business – wait!

Adopting a personalized approach instead of a one-size-fits-all theme, the type of curbside pickup you opt for should be aligned with your business goals and functions.

There are 2 main categories in curbside pickup: BOPIS and BOSS.

What is BOPIS in Retail?

The abbreviation of "Buy Online, Pickup in Store", BOPIS is a way to make a real-time curbside pickup. In most cases it guarantees an instant way of order fulfillment.

Let's see how it works:

  1. The customer places an online order against real time inventory
  2. The store completes the order
  3. Customer arrives at the store for pickup

Because the order is placed for inventory that’s already accounted for, you're essentially done.

The customer could choose to wander into the shop and obtain their order from the cash counter, or they could opt for a pickup outside the shop, by the curb instead.

For a retailer, the BOPIS is a gold way to keep sales high. If a customer chooses to pickup at the cash counter, they have to walk through the store and its aisles to obtain their parcel. This could lead to impulse buying, or the customer simply picking something off the shelf that they forgot to add in the order.

The result: Greater sales!

In fact, BOPIS has been instrumental in the 2020 pandemic. The KIBO Commerce Data shows BOPIS orders have substantially increased today, as compared to 2018, as they now comprise of a great 40% of total retail orders.

What is BOSS in Retail?

BOSS is another curbside pickup option for retailers, and it stands for "Buy Online, Ship to Store".

Many retailers and consumers alike confuse BOSS and BOPIS. Plainly speaking, the two have no difference from the perspective of consumers; yet the logistical operations are widely different.

BOPIS includes an order placement that could be fulfilled by the shop's own inventory at the specific location. Conversley, BOSS allows a bit more flexibility in choosing the source location for the inventory that will fulfill the order – even if the store has a wide stock available. A retailer that uses the BOSS curbside pickup method might choose to ship the items to the location from their main warehouse or distribution center and only once it arrives at the location a notification is sent to the customer that the order is ready for pickup.

Working wonderfully for smaller businesses; BOSS offers great flexibility and ensures your store stocks are never depleted due to smaller orders. On the other hand, BOPIS curbside pickup is often better for larger retailers or retailers that span larger geographical areas where shipping to a location is not economical. Some retailers might choose BOPIS if they usually carry deep inventory for most of their products at all stores since it is a bit more efficient and rewards the customers with instant gratification by immediately fulfilling their orders.

Why Curbside Pickup Helps Retailers Serve Customers Better

  • Reduced Shipping Costs

Online retail comes with the overburdening expense of shipping costs as each customer is delivered their package to their desired location. Curbside pickup puts an end to this; limiting deliveries to the curb.

Also, as customers pickup their goods, they offer visual confirmation of the order, helping retailers save up on return shipping costs in case of missing/faulty items.

  • Improved Inventory Management

Methods like BOPIS have resulted in one-integrated software covering in-store and distribution center inventory.

A good POS system would acknowledge inventory in stores and warehouses, allowing customers to have a better shopping experience with lesser out-of-stock products.

  • Real-Time Order Confirmation

Even today, customers are wary of purchasing online due to the risk of bad quality and missing/faulty items. A survey was conducted by Retail Touch Points and it discovered that about 79% shoppers would refrain from purchasing from the retailer after a faulty good delivery.

With visual order confirmation through curbside pickup, customers leave satisfied with their order; enhancing customer loyalty.

  • Quicker Deliveries

A recent Fisher study found that about 90% of online shoppers stated they abandoned their cart due to a high shipping fee or deliveries offered later than 2 days.

With same-day pickup facilities through curbside pickup; customers are more inclined to go through with their orders.

  • Increased Sales: Online & In-Store

From the blend of in-store and online buying facilitated by BOPIS to greater online orders due to same-day pickups; curbside pickup is a great way to increase sales, especially during busy times like holidays. It is found that approximately 40% shoppers make use of BOPIS in the holidays,

Why Curbside Pickup for Retail is Here to Stay?

Following a process of Click & Pick, curbside pick has revolutionized the risky side of online shopping as consumers are given real-time information, enhanced deliveries, and better service.

While it was the social-distancing need of the pandemic that encouraged many retailers to choose the over-the-curb option of sales; it has been a fruitful change and one that vows to live beyond current times.

As more and more customers are joining the online shopping community due to curbside pickup, it seems this method is a godsend for new and established businesses alike and is here to stay.

Embracing Curbside Pickup — For Today and Tomorrow

While curbside pickup seems the way for future online retail, know that the process entails several important elements:

  1. The brick and mortar store
  2. An online ecommerce store that supports in-store pickup
  3. A channel management system with order management component

If you are looking to enable curbside pickup for your retail business, take a look at our channel management platform and feel free to request for a demo

You simply need to get your website up and running and have SQQUID's integrate with your POS/ERP. Once in place it syncs with your website to automatically update and manage inventories, optimizes shipments, broadcasts product changes live and within minutes, and makes your curbside pickup – a breeze.

From BOSS to BOPIS, choose any method, and be confident in offering curbside pickup to your customers.

Improve conversion rates, enhance customer retention, increase sales – Embrace SQQUID to supercharge your e-commerce future.