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Curbside pickup 101: A guide for local retailers

July 24, 2020
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
July 24, 2020 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

This article was updated on February 2, 2022

Curbside pickup became increasingly popular at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the benefits of this service have turned it into a highly favorable business process that's sure to last well beyond the pandemic.

In fact, the shift has been so popular that Adobe Analytics reported curbside pickup at retail stores has increased 208% during the pandemic. As buy-online, pickup-in store options have become part of the norm, it's increasingly important for participating retailers to set up the retail curbside pickup to stay competitive.

By not offering curbside pickup to your customers, you may be falling behind. If this is a new concept for your small businesses, this guide will help you get started.

Entering the curbside pickup market

First things first, what is retail curbside pickup? Retail curbside pickup means any order that's retrieved outside the physical store location. That includes orders placed via phone, from a mobile app, or an eCommerce website. Once placed, a customer shopper just has to get to the designated pickup location to pick up their order from an employee stationed curbside.

Sounds straightforward, right? Here's how to tell if your store location business is ready to jump into the retail curbside pickup game, as well as the logistics necessary to make the option work.

#1 Check your retail POS system

Having an efficient Point of Sale (POS) system isn't just key to traditional sales, it's critical to entering the retail curbside pickup operations. The reasons?

  • Inventory management helps stock what buyers want and keep up with demand
  • Integration of sales across all channels maintains orders and retail margins
  • Manages efficient and timely pickups (and deliveries)

By investing in a state-of-the-art POS system, local small businesses can streamline payment processing while reaping the benefits of integrating with third-party apps, a bottom-line boon for business.

#2 Train staff in contactless curbside pickup procedures

Simply having the right software is only one step in launching retail curbside pickup. Staff training comes next and requires that employees understand proper pickup procedures. Good training will result in a consistent workflow that delivers timely pickups and customer satisfaction. Here's how to get all your staff on the same page when it comes to pickup procedures:

  • Layout an order of operations that gives each employee a specific task
  • Assign each employee a specific role, whether it's taking orders, boxing up goods, or handing out each curbside pickup order orders
  • Have packaging prepped and ready to go before accepting orders
  • Keep contactless curbside pickup by offering online payment options

#3 Give a personal touch

Customer service is more important than ever, which is why you still need to find a way to make your shoppers your number one priority. The transactional nature of curbside pickup can feel cold when not employed properly. 

By adding a personal touch, small local or individual retailers can not only increase sales but encourage brand loyalty. Here's how to make the curbside service experience as personal as possible:

  • Instruct staff to greet customers by name
  • Include a personal note with each order
  • Offer a coupon or discount to curbside customers
  • Give retail curbside shoppers an incentive to comment on social media or write a recommendation on Nextdoor

#4 Streamline Your Online Ordering Process

In the current global economy, small local businesses that offer e-commerce with retail curbside pickup orders must work hard to avoid cart abandonment. What's that? That's the habit of online shoppers filling up a cart only to later close the window and move on without making a purchase.

41 different studies collated by Baymard Institute found that "21% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter solely due to a 'too long [or] complicated checkout process.'"

By streamlining the online ordering experience, you can avoid cart abandonment. Here are three tips from WooCommerce to get you started:

Leave account registration and email requests for later - While yes, building up an email list is important for ongoing marketing campaigns, it's more important to land the sale now. Leave information requests for after they're happy with their purchase.

Simplify, test, simplify again - Have a friend or coworker run through your online order process and see if they get stuck anywhere. If there's any part of the process where you can bring clarity and simplicity, do so.

Accept more payment options - It can be such a pain from the consumer point-of-view when a company doesn't accept their preferred payment option. Don't let this happen to your business. Accept all the major payment options, including credit card and PayPal, or allow them to pay through their Amazon account.

By implementing these three simple actions, you'll find a more streamlined process and a reduced abandoned cart rate.

#5 Carve out a curbside pickup space

Curbside pickup service will only work if it flows in tandem with your current sales process. To ensure efficiency, you'll need to demarcate a specifically designated pickup zone to handle curbside pickup and be sure to get city approval if necessary. Nothing will rain on your customer's pickup parade like a parking ticket, so be sure to check local regulations before rolling out this service.

COVID-19 Tip: Concerns about health and safety remain top of mind for all customers, and that extends to curbside pick-up just as much as in-person shopping. Thoughtful planning will help you execute a safe and efficient pickup process:

  • Carefully mark off your curbside pickup space
  • Clearly mark the appropriate pickup zone information with signs, including 6 feet distance markers
  • Send customers electronic instructions on how to pick up at curbside
  • Have staff wear gloves when handing off goods
  • Supply masks for staff
  • Wipe down the designated pickup zone frequently

Remember, investing in your business's safety protocols isn't just a health measure, it's a marketing opportunity that will show customers you care enough to go the extra mile.

#6 Promote your retail curbside pickup option

Adding curbside pickup service won't increase sales unless you let people know about it. From print to digital ads, social media to the neighborhood hub, Nextdoor, there are many platforms to do so. Using a variety of these tools will garner the most attention, but there's one marketing strategy you can't overlook: The power of recommendations.

According to a 2014 survey by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

What does trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations mean?

Locals trust what other locals have to say about your goods and services.


Nextdoor is the neighborhood hub that thinks local. By using trusted connections, neighbors can exchange helpful information, goods, services, and recommendations for options like your small local business's retail curbside pickup.

Rather than attempt to grow followers organically, Nextdoor Business Pages give small businesses a built-in audience of members, 88% of whom report to shop at a local business once a week or more. And they want to hear about how you can make their shopping experience easier.

It's as easy as taking advantage of Nextdoor's free Business Page. Straightforward to set up, the Business Page allows businesses to instantly connect with locals, build word-of-mouth, and access a built-in audience of real neighbors.

By setting up your page, you can:

  • Raise awareness for your business in your local community
  • Drive local business using Local Deals
  • Strengthen your brand
  • Increase support and local connections with free Business Posts
  • Use recommendations to drive sales and convert new customers

At a time when many are feeling a renewed sense of community, Nextdoor offers a hub to bring neighbors closer together.

In fact, a story in Quartz reported that "In the days following the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the number of groups on the hyper-local social-media site Nextdoor rose by 15 times, with users largely discussing how to help those in their community."

Social Media

Whether it's an Instagram account or a Facebook page, social media can help drive business to your retail curbside pickup option. Promote new safety protocols or even post a video displaying how easy it is to use curbside pickup.

Tip: If there's one thing customers are interested in right now, it's businesses that aren't just focused on their bottom line. Use social media as a tool to show your concern for customers as well as products they're interested in and you'll reap the rewards of loyal followers.

Promote your curbside pickup deal with Nextdoor

With social distance policies and stay-at-home orders still in effect in much of the country, the value of offering retail curbside pickup is more than just a new revenue opportunity, it's a community service. That's why the hyperlocal neighborhood hub Nextdoor is invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So once you're ready to roll out your retail curbside offerings, remember to:

  • Check your retail POS system
  • Train staff in curbside pick-up procedures
  • Give a personal touch
  • Streamline your online ordering process
  • Carve out a curbside pickup space
  • Promote your retail curbside pickup option
  • Plan for the future. Curbside pickup will likely become a part of your business's ecosystem

Should you need more tips or resources on how to optimize your Business Page, be it to grow your reach, connect with locals, or promote your latest curbside pickup deal, you can always find more information on Nextdoor.

Claim your Business Page

Additional sources:

Supply & Demand Executive. Curbside Pickup at Retail Stores Increase 208% During Coronavirus Pandemic.

Baymard Institute. 41 Cart Abandonment Rate Statistics

Search Engine Land. 88% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations

Quartz. Coronavirus reminds us what functioning communities look like.

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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