Curbside Pickup Picks up Steam With Convenience, Speed and Digital Payments

Ngenuity Payments Journal – Jan Grogan drives her blue Volvo to Walmart to pick up groceries that she ordered online the night before. She pulls her car into one of the designated parking spaces on the side of the building, where an employee meets her and confirms her $50 order. Grogan has already paid for the groceries. She used a credit card online when she made her order.

The baby boomer pops the trunk, and within a few minutes she is all loaded up with groceries and ready to go home. This is how Grogan rolls these days. She really likes the new grocery shopping pickup service, which is ideal for her and her busy schedule.

As more consumers like Grogan move to online and mobile ordering, it’s no surprise that curbside pickup, facilitated by smartphone apps and digital payments, is experiencing growth with restaurants and retailers. With giants like McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Target and Nordstrom installing parking spaces for curbside pickup, off-premise shopping and dining is becoming an even larger piece of the retail pie. Brands must keep up with the trend or risk falling behind, analysts say.

To keep pace, retailers must offer customers an omnichannel buying and payment experience, whether it’s in-store purchasing, purchasing online with home delivery, buying online and picking up in-store, or buying online and picking up outside the store.

While Walmart offers its curbside pickup service for groceries only, other retailers such as Nordstrom and Target offer curbside services for most anything in stock. Yet, two challenges retailers face with curbside pickup are increased operational costs and the loss of impulse buys.

Another benefit of curbside is attracting diverse demographics, such as parents with young children, seniors and people with mobility issues. “It potentially allows you to attract a different consumer base and shift shoppers to your brand from Amazon or other online businesses,” says Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP Consulting. “If you can offer same-day order, same-day pickup, that appeals to some people.”

Convenience, speed and making payments easy are three keys to a successful curbside program, says Neville. Plus, new vehicle location technology used by some retailers and restaurants expedites the curbside experience for customers.

“A lot of retailers are offering mobile apps now for easy ordering and paying,” says Neville. “You pay with Apple Pay or link your credit card to the apps.” He believes stores with curbside services will make up what they miss in impulse buys by increasing purchase frequency and attracting new customer segments. From a consumer perspective, Neville says one of the obvious benefits of curbside pickup is reducing stress in people who have busy lives. “I’m stressed about going to Target, finding a parking spot, navigating all of the aisles and dealing with long lines and a lot of people,” he says.

An alternative to the often-crowded drive-thru lane, the curbside pickup trend also drives the growth of cars as a place for commerce. And in the future, the service could align well with the emergence of self-driving vehicles and connected cars.

“When you combine this [curbside] feature with self-driving vehicles, I can send my car out to do my errands and essentially complete a curbside pickup with nobody in the car,” says Neville.

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