Curbside Pickup Gets The Nod From Santa

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Consumers, as PYMNTS data has repeatedly shown are hesitant to set foot in stores out of concern of exposing themselves and their loved ones to COVID-19. But people still have to eat, purchase shoes, replenish their wardrobes and purchase other physical goods – and sometimes need those goods a bit more quickly than can be guaranteed by delivery services. Curbside pick-up offers the immediacy of shopping in the real world along with the relative safety of remoteness offered by online shopping, put together in a neat package that allows consumers to leverage the most ubiquitous piece of technology in their lives: the mobile phone.

Unsurprisingly, curbside pickup has been a hit during the pandemic period, particularly among American consumers. What has proved to be a bit more surprising, however, is the myriad ways in which merchants have been tapping into their curbside skills. Nordstrom, for example, set up curbside not only as a way to pick up last-minute Christmas gifts (pre-wrapped and ready to give out), but also as a way to drop off a letter to Santa and set up a 15-minute Zoom call (in lieu of sitting on his lap). And to further boost the appeal of its holiday curbside offering, Nordstrom leveraged it as a touchpoint for distributing free gifts to selected consumers.

But now the holiday season is over, and the COVID-19 pandemic is (hopefully) drawing to a close as vaccines are being distributed. But it’s looking like curbside pickup, with its popularity as a convenient tool for consumers, is likely here to stay.

“Curbside pickup has changed the way people think — not only about the way they live, but also about the way they make payments,” Norm Marraccini, senior vice president of digital payments, ACH and RTP at FIS, told Karen Webster in a Masterclass interview earlier this year. “Curbside pickup is something that we’ve never done in the past because it was a novelty. Now I think it’s something that will stay, because it’s also a third option for merchants to make additional funds in addition to in-store and online shopping.”

And according to the data, it’s an option that consumers are increasingly comfortable pursuing. A quick glance at the latest iteration of the PYMNTS/Visa How We Will Pay consumer report tells this story pretty clearly. Consumers once hesitant to order products like grocery goods digitally are increasingly becoming comfortable with the activity, and a growing number are embracing the curbside pickup option. The number of consumers ordering groceries online at least some of the time has nearly tripled over the course of the last year, as some 76 million Americans are now carrying out their grocery run digitally.

And while some of those orders are delivered to doorsteps digitally, the recent PYMNTS Global Digital Shopping Index spotlighted consumers’ growing interest in curbside in particular, especially when compared to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) options. PYMNTS research shows that interest in curbside has grown significantly, with 15.5 percent of those who purchase digitally citing it as their preferred way of shopping in July, up from 10.8 percent in March. BOPIS, meanwhile, has not gotten a similar boost, as the share preferring it dropped slightly to 13.8 percent during the same period. Curbside has shown particular strength in the grocery segment during this time period, as 70 percent of those using curbside pickup report using it for groceries.

Consumers never had to use curbside before, and so many didn’t. But once they were forced to try it out, many discovered they actually liked it. The How We Will Pay report notes that where once nearly three-quarters of consumers bought groceries on weekends, now only a little over half of them report doing so. The rest have realized that when they order online and pick up curbside, it takes a lot less time – and they can do it any day of the week.

And though COVID-19 will likely come to an end sometime next year – and hopefully Santa won’t need to schedule Zoom calls next Christmas – we imagine that consumers will still be pulling up curbside, even if they don’t need to drop off a letter.

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