By Geoff Harden & Matt Hummel
“Many companies are offering curbside because there’s been no other option for their business today. But what will happen on the other side of this pandemic – will consumers come to expect curbside as a service? Our bet is a resounding ‘yes’.”Matt Hummel, Chief Experience Officer
Some companies have been offering curbside pickup for years. Others have had to quickly adapt as a response to the world we’re living in today – as a safer, contactless alternative to crowded restaurants and stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not just your local restaurants and grocery stores. Retailers (big and small) are offering curbside pickup – from Target and Best Buy, to Dick’s Sporting Goods and Petco. However, America will phase out of social distancing orders and some states have already started the process. How will this effect curbside pickup as a service? It’s hard to imagine that consumers will immediately want to go back to shopping in crowded stores – whether out of a true health requirement or the fear of the unknown. And, will this bleed into other businesses such as services, banking, or non-urgent healthcare (including dental)? It’s not irrational to think that the convenience of curbside pickup becomes something consumers get used to, and frankly – desire.
We think the latter. And that’s why we’re advising clients who quickly stood-up curbside pickup options for their business to start thinking about ways to not only scale it for the long-term, but optimize it as a revenue stream for their product or service.
Below are a few important considerations when it comes to scaling curbside.
First, you have to set a customer-centered and insight-driven strategy.
One of the first steps in any good experience strategy is gathering insights. Before you can truly design (or redesign) a customer-centric “curbside experience”, you need to understand what makes it a valuable alternative to traditional shopping. Journey mapping is one way to uncover deep and informative insights – while helping you answer pivotal questions such as:
- What are the ins and outs of the full customer journey? Not only the online ordering part, but think about all aspects of the journey such as pickup procedures, returns, etc.
- What does my customer expect from this experience? Fulfilling your customer’s needs and desires starts with understanding them.
- What are some potential pitfalls and how can we overcome them? Uncover the situations that were “not so good”, customers’ thoughts/emotions at these pivotal moments, and ways to build proactive solutions into the curbside strategy.
- How can the Service Design be improved to optimize the experience? Does your company have the means (staffing) to get product out quickly? How do you identify the correct car? How can you integrate with mobile? Are there certain packages that work better than others for pickup (for food and otherwise)? Pitfalls will be unique to your product.
Questions like these (and others) will need to get answered in order to gain deep insights and vision and set a successful strategy.
Then, there’s the technical side of actually building it.
Once you understand your customer’s wants and needs, the next step is about having the technical chops to build it the right way. Every project will be unique to the client in order to integrate with existing e-commerce and fulfillment tools, but these technical considerations can’t be overlooked:
- Optimize your ecommerce platforms: Many ecommerce platforms exist including Sitecore Experience Commerce and Episerver Commerce, to name a few. Optimizing these platforms by taking advantage of powerful personalization tools and also integrating user-centered design practices can help improve product pages (or simplify menus), optimize SEO, and improve the checkout experience.
- Build seamless platform integrations with POS systems: ShopKeep, Upserve, Toast, and other POS systems are popular for customer management, inventory management and sales reporting. Proper technical integrations with your ecommerce platform is critical. When it comes to multi-location retailers and restaurants, the technical setups will ensure that the order is being pushed to correct store to fulfill the order. Middleware or webservices solutions are needed to push components that integrate the front-end experience with the store’s point of sale applications.
- Adhere to transactional best practices such as Token Gateways: Because curbside is considered a web order, you can’t charge the full amount until pickup. That’s why token gateways are important for security as to not store the customer’s credit card data. Tokenization protects sensitive information, such as credit card data, by replacing them with random tokens, so that they cannot be read if intercepted or stolen. Remember also to try to accept as many payment options as possible to limit customer frustration or fallout.
- Take inventory management seriously: Each restaurant or store, depending on where they are at a time of year, may have varying amounts of inventory. It’s necessary to have an inventory management system that interfaces with an existing point of sale system to allow for the proper displays of local inventory.
Other technical and infrastructure factors of importance include:
- Geo-location of customers mapped to corresponding menu/products within the entire product line.
- Mobile UI optimization and app strategy
- Configuring and displaying item selection enhancements
- Leveraging scientific cross/up-sell capabilities
- CRM data management/loyalty
- Recording and measuring online ordering analytics
- Capturing key customer analytics
Finally, find ways to optimize the customer experience through personalization.
Scaling the technical side of your curbside experience for the future is one thing. Optimizing and evolving it for profitability is the next level. Utilizing a powerful machine learning tools as Sitecore Cortex™ or implementing Coveo integrations (to name a few) can allow you to set personalization rules to enhance the customer experience. Below are just a 5 ways (there’s many more, let’s discuss!) to think about driving increased conversions and profitability for curbside through personalization (read our tips for using journey maps to guide a personalization strategy):
- Recognize (and tailor to) existing customers: Remembering visitor preferences goes a long way with customer experience. For example, do you know that your restaurant patron has children they often shop for? Then use personalization to serve up kid’s meals or specials for these customers.
- Serve location-relevant content: This includes menu or product items, store contact information, and more. Geolocation personalization can have a serious impact on conversion.
- Create special campaigns or offers for identified visitors: Whether you’re able to identify a customer based on an email or marketing campaign, behavioral analytics or otherwise, deliver content (including deals) that’s compelling and relevant to them.
- Make personalize recommendations: Create cross-sell or up-sell campaigns based on your customer’s persona or shopping history. By looking at buying patterns, you can make future orders easier, quicker and more convenient for customers.
- Show continuous shopping for return visitors: This approach remembers your visitor’s selected items and preferences through previous sessions and makes it easier for them to pick up right where they left off.
There’s a lot to think about, and a lot of unique ways to build and scale curbside ordering systems. We know, because we’ve done this. While curbside may be new to many companies and some believe this to be a short-term solution to the current pandemic – one thing is for sure: we just don’t know how much customers will come to expect this service in the long term. We’re betting that in many scenarios this will go from a nice-to-have to a must-have in customers’ eyes. Are you ready?
See how we’re helping our clients Get Back to Business.