Offer a thoughtful curbside pickup experience for holiday shoppers

Thursday, September 29, 2022

We all picked up new things during the pandemic: a sense of adventure after endless online hangouts, a hefty bill for contactless delivery orders and maybe the most universal addition of all — a preference for convenient curbside pickup.

The stats don’t lie. According to Adobe Analytics, the number of retail orders placed online and picked up in store swelled 208% in April 2020 as compared to the previous year. And unlike sourdough bread baking marathons, it isn't a pandemic-induced trend: 33% of adults who started using curbside pickup in 2020 are now loyal to it, with plans to continue.

Factor in this holiday season’s unique supply chain issues that have big brands like Walmart, Amazon and Nordstrom begging consumers to buy early, and you’ve got more reason than ever to expect a strong customer demand for pickup orders.

Sure, you may already offer some kind of online order + pick up option. But there’s always room for improvement.

In previous holiday seasons, when COVID-19 and shipping delays weren’t an issue, it was best to spend your limited energy on creating a magical in-store experience or a showstopping seasonal menu. This year, curbside service is poised to play an important role in your seasonal profits.

Don’t let little curbside mistakes tank your customer experience. Check out our five recommendations to fast-track your success — just in time for the holiday rush.

Sweat every detail for a stellar experience

It’s easy to think of the customer experience as a single moment in time. In reality, it’s influenced by each touchpoint the customer has from beginning to end: placing the order, picking it up and potentially coming in for a return or exchange. Consider each detail carefully if you want to create loyal, repeat customers.

For instance, how can you make delivery convenient? Designate a parking space with a phone number to text or call upon arrival. Package orders nicely and securely. Give customers the opportunity to double check their items before leaving.

Being timely and efficient should be balanced with genuine warmth and friendliness.

Speaking of warmth, restaurants have to take special care to make sure the quality of their dishes isn’t lost in transportation. Position your business as the go‐to establishment for takeout and delivery by advertising a takeout-specific menu — full of items that travel and reheat well — served in sturdy takeout containers.

Clearly mark what's available for in-store pickup

There’s no worse feeling as a consumer than finding the perfect item online, just in time for an upcoming gift exchange...only to check the poorly formatted store locator or complicated list of pickup options and realize it’s not a viable choice. (Trust us, they’ll hold that experience against you.)

Clarity is key. Especially during the holidays, when people are more frazzled than usual.

It’s understandable that you can’t offer the same options across all your inventory, but your website or mobile app should make it easy for visitors to see what’s available, where and how they can get it.

Make online order checkout simple

Make sure you get the right information without asking for more than you really need.

Customer expectations for online orders are high, and it won’t take much of a barrier to land you with an abandoned cart instead of a sale.

Beyond capturing their payment method, do make it mandatory for them to provide a pickup person and a contact phone number at minimum. That way, if an item is unexpectedly out of stock or your store associate can’t identify the customer’s car, you have a way to get in touch and troubleshoot the issue.

Send a confirmation email that clearly outlines next steps

Like any business scenario where approaches differ, setting customer expectations up front is key.


A confirmation email with their order number that lays out what they can expect next does a lot to create a smooth experience.

For instance, will they get an email when the item(s) are ready for pickup, or a text? Aim to summarize key information without making it so long that you lose them. They may have read your FAQ page that explains your contact-free process, accessibility options and holiday store hours. If so, great! If not, this is your opportunity to keep avoidable frustration at bay with precise, intentional communication.

Some people are hesitant to buy online because of fears the purchase won't turn out as planned (read: cold food or a not-as-advertised toy).

Offer drive up order incentives

You can help reassure these reluctant potential customers with a special offer, like 10% off their curbside orders when they place one online or a $10 gift card when they place their first curbside pickup order. If you’re in the market, we have plenty of last-minute marketing ideas for small businesses.

Some customers may only need to hear your return and exchange policy to overcome this objection. It's much easier to commit to a gift you haven't seen in person knowing you have 14 days to return it in store with a receipt.

For restaurants, a curbside order incentive could be a complimentary dessert or cocktail. All the better if they’re seasonal and offered for a limited time. A coupon for a discount on a repeat visit in the near future might be equally effective.

Add moments of delight

41% of consumers intend to buy more locally in the future.
Source: Boston Consulting Group

We still have fresh memories of the importance of community from the darkest days of coronavirus. That might explain why shoppers are more interested than ever in buying from local stores.

Inspire future sales by showcasing what makes you a unique local fixture. Whether it’s the ethical produce you buy, local charities you invest in or the intricate gift wrap you’re famous for, don’t be afraid to own your small business’ special niche. Going the extra mile is a great way to compete effectively with big box retailers.

Sometimes, all it takes to create a repeat customer is a thoughtful approach to their purchase experience.

Making the process clear and efficient or adding an extra special touch might be enough to take a bah humbug hand-off and turn it into a holly jolly memory.

If you aren't already set up with an online store that supports curbside pickup, check out our products that let you provide the flexibility customers want without any extra headaches. Learn more about our modern, cloud-based restaurant and retail POS systems.