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Text-Thru is the New Drive-Thru as Curbside Commerce Takes Off

Text-Thru is the New Drive-Thru as Curbside Commerce Takes Off

Originally published on Medallia Zingle.

It has been inspiring to see the resilience of so many businesses across the U.S. that have quickly adapted to stay open, kept employees working and are still providing crucial goods and services or even just the taste of normalcy a good New York bagel can bring during these trying times.  Rather than close, many restaurants, bars, delis and all kinds of retail businesses have shifted their business models on the fly with new text-thru options. They’ve developed processes to enable orders, payment and curbside pickup through their websites, phones, text messaging and good old-fashioned hustle.

Curbside commerce has taken off across the country and Zingle’s customer success team has been working around the clock to support many of these businesses. We’ve seen how nimble businesses can be and gotten a firsthand look at a new text-thru approach retail businesses of all sizes could quickly adopt to keep serving customers.

The New Normal: Curbside Commerce

When orders at a bustling bagel store in New York slowed to a near halt, the owner quickly launched a new curbside pickup option that has eased customer anxiety and boosted business. Customers can completely avoid face-to-face interaction by ordering and paying with text messaging and then picking up their orders curbside. Many other retail businesses have followed suit and this approach could be used by any number of neighborhood corner stores, pet shops, department stores and all types of big-box retailers.

At Beyond Bagels & Deli in Long Island, owner Dr. Robert Kleinwaks had already been using messaging to take orders for pickup and delivery, but two weeks ago, he launched a curbside pickup option that has helped keep his business afloat during the global pandemic.

On his website and in marketing, he invites customers to text their order in for pickup or delivery and customers can use their credit cards to pay by text. Customers opting for regular pickup can skip the line at the store and head to a separate area under a Zingle sign for a fast, seamless and socially distant pickup experience. And with the curbside option, customers can avoid all human contact and pick up their bagged orders of fresh bagels on an outdoor patio table in front of his storefront.

“We’ve never done curbside pickup before this, but I knew a lot of people were scared to come into stores now,” says Kleinwaks, noting his wife’s phobia about just that. “So I wanted to try and solve that problem and I’d say it now accounts for 10%-15% of our business, but those are people we weren’t getting before.”

He proactively reached out to his customer base to not only remind them that he was still open, but more importantly, to share the additional steps his staff was taking to provide a safe and healthy service.

Several other companies Zingle works with have used a similar playbook, including a shoe store in Florida now offering “parking-lot pickup” to its customers with text messaging to take orders and coordinate the pickup while the doors remain closed to shoppers. The same is true for a dry cleaning business that just reopened after being deemed “essential” by its state government and it also utilizes texting to coordinate dropoff and pickup.

These retail stores have quickly found a way to transform their brick-and-mortar businesses into curbside commerce, using messaging to help ensure a fast, safe and seamless shopping experience. Fast food chains and many grocery stores have already perfected the drive-thru or pickup experience, but curbside commerce has given new life to full-service restaurants, bars, pet shops, shoe stores, hardware stores and now provides a blueprint for others to follow.

Virtual Innovations Outside the Retail Sector

The ability to quickly adapt and communicate with customers has also allowed many other types of businesses to quickly pivot and remain serving their clientele during this crisis.

By now many people around the world have used Zoom in some form, for our work, our children’s schooling or even just for social happy hours. Video streaming and conferencing are providing new ways for traditional in-person businesses to serve their clientele through self quarantines and social distancing.

A fitness trainer Zingle works with has shifted her business from in-person workouts to at-home virtual ones, using messaging to alert members and to share links for the live classes when they’re about to start. Numerous others are doing the same, but we’re not seeing it in just health and fitness.

A cosmetic surgeon has moved to virtual consultations and is texting appointment reminders and links to the new virtual meeting locations, while a music school is now using texting to help offer and coordinate virtual lessons. A financial services business hosted its first virtual chat this week to share insights on government relief programs, SBA loans and tax credits and is using Zingle to help inform and remind clients.

Text It In’ Made Easier with New Zings

Real-time communication has been instrumental in allowing these businesses to quickly adapt and then inform their customers of the changes and new services. To help more businesses meet today’s challenges, Zingle’s customer success team created a series of new pre-built Zings — automated workflows — that can be quickly deployed.

An example of an automated workflow — a Zing — for curbside pickup.

For example, a curbside pick-up Zing was created to help dry cleaners manage curbside transactions, but it could just as easily be adapted for F&B or other retail businesses. In the automated workflow, a group message can be sent to all customers or a segment of them introducing the new curbside option that enables customers to remain in their car for socially distant clothing handoffs.

Customers are told to text in the word “express” when they are on the way so the business can ready the order. That also triggers an automated response asking the customer what kind of car they’re driving so the business can be on the lookout. When customers arrive to drop off clothes, they are instructed to text “dropoff” and the business knows to come out to pick up the clothes, and an automated message is sent to say they are on their way.