Is the curbside the next omnichannel hotspot?

Now that the COVID vaccine is getting distributed, the end of the pandemic is finally in sight. It won’t be long until we start seeing customers back in stores, maybe even flush with extra spending money from another round of stimulus checks.

Many of the big retail changes from COVID—such as temperature checks, enforced mask wearing and crowd limits—will hopefully become a distant memory as the pandemic fades. On the other hand, arguably the biggest innovation is almost certainly here to stay: curbside pickup.

Retailers like Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club have seen great success during the pandemic, thanks to a smooth and organized curbside pickup implementation. The question is, what’s next? How can retailers leverage the power of curbside to increase basket size, or the number of trips customers make to the store? How can curbside pickup be merchandized, and monetized? We have some ideas we think you’ll find interesting.

Gerry Marrone, SPAR’s Chief Revenue Officer, sees great potential in curbside, viewing it as a space for innovation. “There is a great opportunity for retailers to figure out how to merchandise and advertise from the curbside. How far away are we from curbside graphics, sponsorships, advertisements and impulse buy displays?”


An Untapped Marketing Opportunity

It’s safe to say that curbside pickup may never be as popular as it is right now during the pandemic. But even if 20% of customers opt for curbside going forward, that’s still millions and millions of shoppers. And with the right merchandising and marketing, that can be an enormous opportunity for retailers.

Retailers like Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond and others have seen great success leveraging the power of the impulse buy. These small impulse items, strategically placed on the queue line to the cash register, can really add up. A recent study found that Americans spend as much as $450 per month on impulse buys—usually snacks and beverages. What if there was a way to bring the impulse buy to curbside pickup?


Cashless and Convenient

When cars queue up for their pickup, a store employee would have a mobile cart filled with snacks, drinks and other impulse items—maybe car air fresheners or cleaning wipes. When the customer is waiting for their merchandise to be delivered, they would have a chance to purchase these extra items and pay using their credit or debit card. Imagine a parent keeping their restless children happy by purchasing a beverage or snack. Or buying some Armor All Wipes to help keep their car clean. It’s simple to implement, and would almost certainly drive up the basket size for each curbside order.

As Gerry Marrone says, “Considering one of the biggest challenges for retailers is to increase basket size – we believe well done, curbside merchandising and cashless payment has the potential to dramatically increase sales. Imagine adding $5-$7 to that $75 order. Now do that to just 20% of the orders you are fulfilling. The numbers add up pretty quickly.”


No Fee, No Problem: Sponsored Curbside Pickup

The other pillar of our plan for maximizing curbside pickup opportunities may take a little more time to implement, but its upside is sky-high for retailers.

What about corporate sponsorship of curbside pickup? How would it work? Simple. This is already being done at my local grocery retailer – a brand offers a special promotion. Buy five boxes of cereal and get FREE curbside pickup. In our case that’s a $4.95 fee. Of course, the brand will reimburse the retailer for the fee as part of the promotion, but if customers are buying five boxes when they’d normally buy two, that more than makes up for the curbside fee, and accomplishes the goal – increased basket size.

This program gets promoted digitally, via outdoor signage at curbside or on the cart corral, in the weekly circular and closes the loop with an omnichannel program.

Gerry puts it best, “I believe 2021 and beyond will see the birth of ‘Curbside as a Medium’. There is a huge opportunity waiting to be developed and SPAR is ready to help brands and retailers execute on that vision.”

Here at SPAR, we see a world of opportunity for curbside pickup. Innovative ideas like this will help retail evolve to its next great era, where smart marketing and the convenience of curbside combines for an even better customer experience.

Got any ideas? We want to hear from you. What kind of impulse items would you buy in a curbside pickup sale? How would you reach customers to tell them about the waived fee if they buy large amounts of a brand? Got any other ideas for monetizing curbside pickup? Let us know!