A recent New York Times article states that the COVID-19 trend of customers picking up their parcels outside a store may continue beyond the pandemic.  “The popularity of curbside pickup reveals that the future of retail is not just more packages piling up on people’s doorsteps. Beyond satisfying the need for contactless shopping in the pandemic, it taps into Americans’ desire to drive to a store, a pull that can be just as strong as, or even stronger than, the convenience of home delivery. “Americans are used to their cars and actually do like stores, so this is kind of a hybrid where you’re getting the best of both worlds,” said Oliver Chen, a retail analyst at Cowen.”

Will you be doing curbside pickup for the holidays?  Three-fourths of the top 50 store-based retailers in the United States now offer the service, according the New York Times article. This variation of BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) has been a real boon to many of us since the coronavirus closed our doors.  At Orange Tree Imports, we were only open for online purchases being picked up curbside – on our back porch – during May. In June we added telephone ordering for curbside pickup, bringing back a staff member so that we could offer that service. When we reopened to a limited number of customers at a time in July, we found that many customers still preferred the contactless curbside pickup option.

Offering curbside pickup meant that we had to make sure our website was robust, and our online shopping cart secure.  We really scrambled to add dozens and dozens of additional items to our site, having never intended to be a “bricks and clicks” retailer.  We mention our pickup time options when a customer makes a purchase, and explain that it will take a few hours to get an online order ready.  Phone orders can of course go out immediately.

Both the online and telephone service shopping options required us to set up new systems, with forms to make sure we have all the necessary information and a staging area for merchandise going out at certain times each day.  Other stores have someone on hand to run packages out to the customer’s car (or sleigh) when they call, and we may have to do this when snow makes it impractical to have merchandise sitting outside. 

A QR code and signage on our door help customers find more information about our curbside service if they come to the store and can’t get in – or find us closed, since our hours are  limited.  We try to make the curbside pickup an enjoyable experience, with a thank you note and little treat in each package. It’s our hope that making this buy local option rewarding will help lure customers away from Amazon until the time when we can again be open without restrictions.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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