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How Brands Can Deliver On The Promise Of Curbside Experiences

  • Written by  Chris Sheehan, Applause

0aaaChris Sheehan Applause

Retail needs to change. As a whole, retailers have to become more attentive, and quicker to react to, the fast-rising expectations of their customers. For many, this transformation is already underway.

Progress has been made in creating robust omnichannel experiences that give consumers more ways to interact with content, services, and products. These initiatives continue to evolve, but they have already shown their value. According to Harvard Business Review, omnichannel shoppers spend 4% more in brick-and-mortar stores and 10% more online than their single-channel counterparts.

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It takes consistent time and resources, and continuous reevaluation, to maintain an omnichannel experience, but the numbers show that missing out is much more costly.

Curbside Is The Next, Untapped Tool To Give Omnichannel Experiences The Edge

The use of mobile apps to kickstart shopping experiences, whether by letting customers nab discounts or place orders at physical store locations, has already established itself as a staple for omnichannel offerings. And it’s not just for the digital leaders. Traditional retail brands that focus primarily on brick-and-mortar also are getting in on the action, enticing customers with in-store pickup to separate themselves from lagging competitors. Even among these trendsetters, though, relatively few brands have fully leveraged the latest iteration of omnichannel experience: curbside pickup.

Curbside pickup builds off in-store pickup by affording customers the convenience of picking up orders from a nearby retail location without having to leave their car…parking spot included.

The brands that have seized on this early trend are already reaping the benefits. In a one-city test of curbside pickup, Target saw its week-over-week orders increase by 10%. Besides driving increased revenue, curbside fills a niche left vacant by in-store pickup, as the prospect of orders delivered directly to the car may strongly appeal to those who are in a hurry, or those with mobility issues who can’t easily enter stores.

So why hasn’t curbside caught on yet? Retailer and restaurant brands have experimented with limited rollouts in the past, with equally limited results. This was due to inaccurate estimates of product readiness and lack of synchroniza

tion between physical store staff and customers. Customers frequently arrived earlier than staff anticipated, leading to irritating delays. With today’s more mature location-aware mobile apps, though, staff can now be alerted when customers pull up, dramatically reducing unnecessary wait time.

Curbside Pickup Must be Seamless And Customer-Centric

Omnichannel experiences pay in dollars, cents, and customer loyalty. But it’s not enough to simply implement an omnichannel strategy. It has to include the whole spectrum of delivery channels, it has to be relevant, and most importantly, it has to be seamless.

Success with omnichannel experiences means subjecting every channel to a high level of scrutiny and viewing the omnichannel strategy holistically. That means treating every channel as a potential breaking point in a customer’s buying journey, and preemptively addressing poor usability conditions to avert future crises. It also means getting internal teams in the habit of cross-collaboration, so that different apps and services don’t feel like they were created in separate siloes.

In practice, this takes the form of rigorous, repeated testing that mimics the real-world conditions customers will face during curbside pickup. The best way to know where a customer falls through the cracks is to let a sample set test drive the curbside experience, having them provide relevant feedback as they go. This has a distinct advantage over traditional in-lab testing because it allows developers to see things through a real customer’s eyes.

Solidifying Your Future Means Getting Ahead Of Trends

Retailers already know they can’t afford to ignore omnichannel, and it’s quickly becoming clear that poor executions are just as problematic as none at all. So while having a seamless omnichannel experience is priority number one, continued success depends on staying on top of new channels and trends, and having the ability to adapt.

Testing plays a crucial role here too. The only way to incorporate new channels is to maintain the existing ones as efficiently as possible, so the development team has the bandwidth to turn to new projects. Rapid, targeted testing has the added plus of effectively identifying when new channels conflict with existing ones.

A report by Walker estimates 86% of customers in 2020 will be willing to pay extra for an experience that more closely meets their personal preferences. This could be a conservative estimate. Seamless omnichannel initiatives are only going to become more significant to the retail journey. The time is now to invest in new channels like curbside pickup, before the competition catches up.


As VP of Enterprise Customer Success at Applause, Chris Sheehan is responsible for developing and executing the company's retention and expansion programs for North America Enterprise customers. Prior to his role in Customer Success, Sheehan led Applause's long-term Product Strategy team. He currently serves on the boards of Xconomy and CWE, and has led many investments in the Boston area as a software VC.

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