During the COVID-19 crisis, many retailers have had their existing pickup services unexpectedly stress tested, while others have been forced to rapidly introduce curbside pickup for the first time. 

Managing curbside pickup for a smooth customer experience is not easy without the right tools in place, which are distinct from those needed for shipping to the customer.

Coordinating Curbside Pickup with Email Only

A common initial channel to manage the curbside pickup process is email.  While quick to implement, email centric solutions often come with limitations:

  • Not suitable for instantaneous communications
  • Not a good choice to enable bi-directional dialogue between retailer and customer (e.g. for customer to notify retailer they have arrived at the store)
  • Sometimes not tightly integrated with eCommerce order management

The customer experience with email focused solutions might be that a customer is notified when their order is ready for pickup, but when they arrive at the store, they have no easy way to notify the retailer they have arrived. Many retailers have asked customers to call the store when they arrive, but during peak periods, customers often only reach a busy signal. While retailers value their customer’s business during an emergency situation, they may inadvertently be punishing those customers with long queues and with no way of effectively communicating with them.

SMS & Interactive Voice for Smoother Pickup

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers two-way SMS and interactive voice services, which enable a smoother curbside pickup experience.

Customers can make use of their preferred channel (SMS or voice)  to confirm their arrival and share information such as their vehicle’s license plate to ensure a safe contactless pickup.

curbside pickup

The Amazon Pinpoint, Connect and Lex services are flexible, and support integration with diverse ecommerce software such as: Shopify, WooCommerce and Squarespace.

Tight integration with order management features empowers the retailer with the most current information such as which customers have been waiting to receive their order and for how long.

As with other AWS services, the solution presented here is low-capital intensive, can be deployed rapidly and “pay what you use” pricing without commitments. 


Curbside Triage

Once customers have announced their presence at the retail location, the key metric monitored by retailer staff is the customer Wait Time

The figure right illustrates how wait time is managed with a SpadinaBus order communications plugin for popular e-Commerce solutions (in this case, Shopify). The upper graphs illustrate the aggregate wait time trends over time, while the lower table allows retail staff to sort and triage customers based on the longest waiting time.

Stay Connected with Two-Way SMS

Modern queue theory tells us that communication is key, because it helps set expectations.

Retail staff can rapidly dialogue with waiting customers with two-way text messages as shown in figure right. Estimated wait times can be automated based on trends and queue position, or staff can provide manual estimates.