How to optimize the curbside experience for customers

Todd Leach | May 6, 2020 Todd Leach 05/06/20

Social distancing guidelines and COVID-19 regulations haven’t just led to the closure of restaurant dining rooms and strict in-store shopping procedures—they’ve created a surge in curbside pick-up for all types of businesses. And while right now that’s being driven by health concerns, brands are realizing the curbside pick-up experience has staying power and should be present in post-pandemic strategies, too.

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Consumers report they will be using this method even more frequently in the future:

  • 31% of restaurant customers say they plan to use curbside pick-up more often
  • 25% of retail customers say they plan to use curbside pick-up more often
  • 38% of grocery customers say curbside pick-up is the safest method to get food

While some brands have been offering this service to customers long before COVID-19, many are new to the game and most aren’t used to the kind of traffic they’re now experiencing. To help you adjust your experience management (XM) strategy in this “curbside era,” here are a few best practices to keep in mind:


Provide clear communication for a frictionless process

A positive curbside experience begins with a clear and consistent communication plan. Customers want notifications every step of the way. It’s also important to let customers choose how they want to receive notifications and updates on their order (i.e., in-app, email, text).

Provide signage and dedicated parking spots for customers taking advantage of curbside service. This is especially important for stores that are not a stand-alone brick-and-mortar (e.g., in a mall, close to other busy retailers). Customers need to know exactly where to drive up and park to get their order.

Signage is also very critical for first-time buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) users. One SMG retail client showed new BOPIS customers were 9 ppts less satisfied with Ease of Finding Pick-up Location than repeat BOPIS users.

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In today’s climate, customers want to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible. If their BOPIS experience isn’t frictionless, you can expect their satisfaction to decrease. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Those who have never been through the BOPIS process before need explicit instructions so they aren’t left wandering and frustrated.


Make employee + customer safety top-of-mind

Employees carrying items out to customers should be wearing masks, gloves, and appropriate PPE. This isn’t just a matter of preference anymore—it’s now a practice customers expect. This is especially important for restaurants, as they have more direct contact with customers’ food.

It’s also a good practice to have employees ask customers to open their own doors or trunks so the staff member can load items into the car. This allows for the experience to be fully contactless—protecting both the customer and employee.


Provide accurate + prompt service

With a truly contactless experience being the ultimate goal, it’s vital to deliver a completely accurate order. Inaccurate orders mean more back-and-forth (and more hands touching products), so make sure team members double-check the order and verify the right vehicle before heading curbside.

In addition, a timely curbside experience is key to customer satisfaction. Have a team member dedicated to curbside orders and ready to assist these customers. Overall Satisfaction steadily declines the longer curbside customers have to wait.

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Leverage the right technology for operational improvements

If your brand has yet to implement a curbside or BOPIS option, now is the time. Leverage the right technologies and dedicate the time to train employees on these operational best practices—because studies show consumer preference for curbside options will last far longer than the pandemic.

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Consider integrating a curbside pick-up option with your existing mobile app to provide a more frictionless experience. Brands with an existing mobile app have made a smoother transition to offering curbside service and have had fewer issues with clarity and communication.

One SMG restaurant client leveraged their mobile app for curbside pick-up and it was a big success with customers. Users could track their order with a progress bar in the app. The brand also added designated parking spaces for curbside. Once the customer arrived, they simply indicated they were there and entered their parking space number. Staff was notified and able to promptly deliver the order.

The brand’s XM data is proving customers appreciate the streamlined approach: usage has increased by more than 5X, and Overall Satisfaction with curbside has risen 3%.


Create more loyal customers with a frictionless curbside experience

Our data also shows some brands are seeing an increase in loyalty metrics from customers who are highly satisfied with their curbside experience. One retail client saw a 14% increase—compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers—in Likelihood to Use Again when customers were Highly Satisfied with BOPIS/Curbside.

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On top of that, we’re seeing open-ended comments from customers hoping the curbside option is here to stay. While it’ll be interesting to see how trends continue to play out, all early signs indicate that consumer behaviors and preferences have permanently changed in significant ways.

What this next normal looks like is unclear, which is why listening to and acting on customer and employee feedback is more crucial than ever.

As we navigate the changing consumer landscape together, we’ll continue to share employee and customer trends and report on how those trends are affecting your brand. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our COVID-19 Resource Center and as always, let us know if we can be of any help.


Todd Leach | Chief Client Officer 
Customer Experience Update