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A month ago, the idea of delivering to customers at the curbside wasn’t on the radar for most small businesses, even though nearly 6,000 grocery and national box stores were offering online ordering with curbside delivery. Before the novel coronavirus hit, the estimated curbside sales in 2020 were expected to grow to $35B. Now it’s almost impossible to predict how fast the service will grow.
Curbside delivery could be an extremely important service to your customers now and in the weeks to come, and it’s a great way to improve sales and gross margins. While it has great potential, there are some steps you need to follow to keep it from hurting instead of helping your bottom line.
We have experience creating and running an online store with immediate delivery. The original Monkeythis was an online store with same-hour delivery anywhere in Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University. We eventually stocked 1,500 unique items in our small warehouse. We designed the business to be like a very well-stocked convenience store without gas pumps, and we grew to do 150+ deliveries a day.
6 Quick Lesson Curbside Delivery Lessons
Take orders online to avoid confusion and product miss-picks
Start with the essentials, but have an online suggestion box so you can respond to customer needs
Be clear about the pickup process to deliver a great customer experience and to reduce the time staff spends on the phone
Establish policies for tipping, returns, and other operational issues in advance
With increased customer convenience, be sure to increase your margins with order charges, or slightly higher prices for online sales
Own your local market with low-cost, smart marketing
Online Orders – This is inexpensive and easy to do today. The first Monkeythis store website cost tens of thousands of dollars. Now there is a wide variety of online store options that are easy to deploy, easy to use, and that offer choices for customers like choosing to pay by credit card or with cash at pickup.
Start Small – Adding products can be time-consuming, so start small and let your customers tell you what other products they want. We didn’t guess that ping pong balls would be quite popular (remember, we began selling to college students), but they and red solo cups were customer suggestions.
Establish Pickup Processes – Don’t make your customer guess, or call to find out. How about adding make and model of their car to make it easy on you to know when they arrive or provide a couple of dedicated pickup parking spots if possible.
Establish Your Policies – We added a tip feature onto the website because customers, not employees, asked for it. How will you handle requests for returning merchandise? If you’re a convenience store, how are you handling sales of tobacco and alcohol? Fine-tune your policies and be ready to adjust as needed. While we’re on the topic of policies, don’t forget to train your staff on how expertly deliver this new service.
Increase Margins – When your customer comes into the store and picks the products from your shelves, they are contributing labor. When you bear the costs to make the shopper’s experience more convenient, you need to be compensated. There are a wide variety of ways you can add value and add margin as you do.
Own Your Local Market – Social, text, in-store, web, news articles – pour it on! This isn’t the time to be bashful. You’re stepping up, so get some kudos.
How can you quickly and affordably get a cart up and running? What are some features to look for? What are the ongoing costs? We have answers to those questions, and we have experience creating small shopping carts and the marketing to publicize them. As you think through this idea, also consider how well you can function if a large portion of your orders come in over the phone. Phone orders require lengthy conversation, and confusion about specific products is hard to avoid. Worse yet, you might have a lot of phone orders with temporarily limited staff.
We see an opportunity for local businesses to benefit from customers who crave convenience and will appreciate that you were here for them when they needed you most. We see new ways of doing business that beat Amazon because, as a local business, you will have responded faster, more effectively, and with a genuine desire to help.
Be in touch. We can help you reap the benefits you deserve for providing great service that also keeps us healthy, happy, and safe.