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Curbside Fulfillment for Retailers

Curbside fulfillment was essential for retailers during the pandemic and is now a popular perk with staying power.

What this solution does:

  • Enables launch of curbside pick-up in one to two weeks
  • Enhances curbside pick-up experience over time using LEAD, a framework for a great customer experience
  • Envisions what the curbside pick-up experience will look like in a post-COVID-19 world

The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to change how they shop in a matter of days due to government-issued stay-at-home orders.

Consumers had to quickly adjust and find new ways to get the products they needed, and many became accustomed to these new conveniences. Consumer behaviors and expectations are expected to stick for the long term, especially when it comes to curbside.

Curbside pickup vs. in-store pickup

Curbside pickup allows customers to place an order for products at a store. When customers arrive, the order is brought out to their car, so they never have to leave the vehicle. In-store pickup is similar, but customers will often come inside the store to get their order.

Retailers with brick-and-mortar stores initially implemented solutions like curbside pickup to help their customers feel safe, while re-purposing their stores as fulfillment centers—building on existing technology and re-deploying their employees in new capacities.

However, research has shown that consumers enjoy the convenience of curbside pickup.

Sources: Mercatus/Incisiv, Brick Meets Click/Mercatus
1. eGrocery Transformed: 2021 Market Projections and Insight, U.S., October 2021


So, how can retailers learn from this temporary solution to deliver a curbside pickup experience that endured through COVID-19 and satisfies consumer needs?

Publicis Sapient set out to answer this question for a leading sports retailer. We looked at the curbside pickup experience through the lens of LEAD, a framework co-created by our global experience team. LEAD consists of four characteristics of a great, modern experience: light, ethical, accessible and dataful.


Experiences are immediate.

Focus on removing complexity, with lightweight solutions that are fast to use.

What does this mean for curbside pick-up?

Make it immediate.

Ensure curbside pick-up is an expedited experience and that messaging is clear and delivered at just the right moment.


Experiences are truthful.

Build transparency into the end-to-end experience by providing shoppers with information at every step.

What does this mean for curbside pick-up?

Be an antidote to confusion.

Provide shoppers with information about their order’s status whenever possible. Explain how operational procedures have been designed for their safety and convenience.


Experiences are frictionless.

A holistic lens on the customer journey, online and offline, identifying moments where friction can be eliminated.

What does this mean for curbside pick-up?

Make it work for everyone.

Ensure customers understand how to use new fulfillment options. Support seamless movement between devices and touchpoints, make it work for everyone and ensure everyone feels comfortable.


Experiences are insightful.

Develop meaningful relationships, and personalization connecting the digital and physical.

What does this mean for curbside pick-up?

Use information to make it better.

Leverage data to gain insight into customers’ journeys, refine the offering and personalize their experience everywhere.

Here’s how LEAD played out for curbside pick-up for the leading sports retailer:

In this environment, retailers cannot afford to wait until a solution is perfect: they must go from idea to production, from concept to customer, as fast as possible by continually releasing, testing, learning and improving.

To get to market quickly and improve over time, we recommend a multi-phase approach to deliver an optimal curbside pick-up experience:

Post COVID-19, curbside pick-up will graduate from being an essential service to a popular perk that various types of retailers will provide says Sudip Mazumder, senior vice president and head of retail delivery, Publicis Sapient. “Retailers who will come out as winners will try to continuously innovate and differentiate their curbside pick-up offering by providing services such as cross-selling adjacent products when customers come to pick up their order, allowing customers to schedule their pick up to reduce wait time, or providing visibility around wait times so customers can plan better”, says Mazumder.

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