Buy Online Pickup Curbside is Changing Customer Behavior: Retail’s Biggest Opportunity

Buy Online Pickup Curbside

Retailers that deliver an exceptional Buy Online Pickup Curbside customer experience have an incredible opportunity to win loyalty and increase revenue.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down retail locations for a period of time, customer expectations of curbside pickup rapidly shifted from a nice-to-have to a must-have in order to protect the health and safety of customers. Over the last few months, we have seen how the Buy Online Pickup Curbside experience is changing customer behavior. The result is a new customer expectation in the fulfillment experience that seems likely to last far beyond the pandemic.

During the most recent holiday shopping season, retailers saw just how important the curbside pickup offering is for their business. Digital retail sales increased by 45% year over year, totaling $181 billion globally in the post-Cyber Monday period between December 1 and December 14, according to Salesforce. In the U.S. alone, digital sales were up 36% to $39 billion. But curbside pickup dominated the numbers, with sales rising 52% for U.S. retailers that offered the service, versus 36% for those that did not.

Meanwhile, a recent consumer research report showed that 87% of Americans surveyed said brands should continue to offer options like curbside pickup that limit the need for in-person interaction. So what started as a necessity for health concerns is becoming a convenience that consumers likely won’t want to give up post-pandemic. That leads to a massive opportunity for retailers.

To see just how important curbside pickup has become, we analyzed online shopping behavior, transactional signals and data from Medallia’s Text Analytics platform from 25 leading retailers that have the Buy Online Pickup Curbside (BOPUC) micro-moment in their fulfillment channel. Brands were then ranked by their overall BOPUC Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and financial outcomes as publicly reported on earning calls.

Streamlined Buy Online Pickup Curbside Experience Pays Off

According to the analysis, the leading retail brands that transformed the Buy Online Pickup Curbside experience have realized tangible gains in customer loyalty, which has translated directly to repeat purchases and increased revenue during the recent holiday season. For this data set, the top five retailers in the BOPUC experience saw a 165% increase in NPS, nearly four times more online visits from consumers than other retailers in the set and revenue increases of about 225% per transaction.

What’s more, 45% of customers at these 25 brands selected curbside pickup as their means of fulfillment, well ahead of in-store pickup and delivery options, signifying BOPUC’s increasing popularity. Within that set of customers, the reason most often cited for using the curbside pickup option was the word “convenience.”

When retailers get the Buy Online Pickup Curbside experience right, it pays off. According to the analysis, customers who had a great BOPUC experience, otherwise known as promoters, subsequently visited the retailer online over five more times in November compared to those who didn’t have a great experience (detractors). By contrast, detractors only visited the online stores 1.4 more times.

Overall, retailers that consistently performed with a NPS of over 60 in the BOPUC micro-moment had five key drivers perform consistently better: notification that order is ready (communication), visible dedicated parking locations, easy two-way communication with store staff (via digital app and/or SMS), friendly associates and order accuracy. By contrast, these key drivers had the biggest negative impact on the customer experience: unavailability of the BOPUC option at all retail stores within the brand, channels of communication (the requirement to call the store via phone had the greatest negative impact on the experience), parking lots lacking well-designated spots and clear signage, and long wait times.

How to Optimize the Buy Online Pickup Curbside Experience

So, what can your organization learn from these findings — and how can you act on them in order to use the BOPUC experience to its full advantage in your own customer experience strategy?

1.) Focus on employee experience: Engage with your employees and understand their challenges and pain points with the current process. Where can operational process changes be made that create a frictionless employee experience that then results in a better customer experience? After all, happy employees create happy customers. You can’t have one without the other.

2.) Consider how you communicate with customers: Customers don’t want to call you on the phone, not even in the least bit. And, email isn’t convenient, nor quick for answering in-the-moment questions. You need to be able to communicate with customers in real time. You can do this by using push notifications within your mobile app or two-way SMS communication.

3.) Build it, and they will come: Is your Buy Online Pickup Curbside experience available across all store locations? If not, it might be time to scale — and customers want you to. Customer feedback data shows that they view it as a negative when retail brands don’t make curbside pickup available at all stores. The expectation is a consistent brand experience no matter what location they shop.

4.) Make it easy with clear signage and dedicated parking: If your customers don’t know where to go to pick up their orders, how can they ever have a good experience? It’s your job to make sure there is no confusion during the pickup process. Make it easy for your customers by offering dedicated parking spots for curbside pickup orders with easy-to-see signage that clearly spells out how customers should alert you of their arrival.

Want to understand your organization’s curbside pickup customer experience in real time? The Quickstart Fulfillment Experience solution combines speed with ease and intelligence to bring you the clearest picture into the fulfillment experience — and how to best respond.