Engaging Customers Through Curbside Pickup

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Recently, the National Retail Federation (NRF) spoke with Ron Lutz, chief retail officer at strategy firm Miller Zell. Lutz discussed how retailers can truly engage customers, even during social distancing and curbside pickups, which have grown increasingly common for home improvement retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn some of Lutz’s key takeaways from curbside pickup’s impact on retail and how retailers can refine their curbside pickup options today and in the months to come.

COVID-19 accelerated curbside pickup.

Lutz says many retailers had already considered how curbside pickup could differentiate their business before the COVID-19 pandemic changed retail.

“Some retailers that had the infrastructure in place already (digital investment, in-store operations, etc.) were able to simply amp up use, while retailers who hadn’t rolled it out may have scrambled a bit at the beginning with a less seamless experience. But even many of those retailers have been able to fine-tune the offering within a matter of months,” Lutz says to the NRF.

Lutz believes the curbside pickup trend is here to stay.

“Many consumers who had never tried BOPIS or curbside pickup were forced to try it and will likely be more attuned to using the service even after the pandemic subsides,” he says.

Curbside pickup brings new options to retailers.

Lutz says that no matter whether a customer enters a brick-and-mortar shopping location or places an order for curbside pickup, retailers must extend a memorable customer experience each visit. He says retailers now have the opportunity to forge fresh connections with customers.

“Curbside offers a way for associates to personally interact with customers, whereas inside the store shoppers may simply grab-and-go using self-checkout or having already paid online. Capitalizing on this human interaction moment, even socially distanced, is a unique opportunity and one that, if executed well, can only further your brand in the shopper’s emotional wallet,” Lutz says.

Retailers must aim for an ideal curbside experience.

Lutz concedes the window of opportunity to establish a memorable curbside customer experience is small, but retailers can’t ignore it.

He says visible signage, including print and digital options, store layout, parking lot flow and associate training are all key elements to creating a powerful customer experience. He encourages retailers to examine each part of their curbside transaction workflow to ensure it is streamlined and goal-focused.

“The more a consumer is able to quickly and easily get where they need to go and what they came to get, the better their experience and brand perception will be—especially during a pandemic peak season,” he says.

Curbside pickup will play a key role this holiday shopping season.

Peak holiday shopping has always been a challenge and opportunity for retailers, and the 2020 holiday season is no exception. As customers continue to desire socially distant shopping options, curbside pickup will remain a key ingredient of a successful holiday sales season for many retailers.

“Retailers should consider having dedicated staff to BOPIS or curbside to alleviate friction. The technology that enables these functions and associates’ ability to use it is also going to be critical during the holidays, so if a store is hiring seasonal associates (especially if they will be customer-facing) they need to learn the systems and have a deep understanding of the processes,” Lutz says.

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