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Jaron WaldmanCo-Founder and CEOCurbside
To make up for foot traffic lost to ecommerce, many retailers give their customers the option to complete a purchase online and pick it up at the nearest store. But retailers often fail to follow through on the in-store experience. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser spoke with Jaron Waldman, co-founder and CEO of store pickup app and technology provider Curbside, about the seamless experience retailers should strive to provide their customers.
eMarketer: From Curbside’s point of view, what challenges are retailers facing today?
Jaron Waldman: Everybody realizes that they need to expose consumers to ecommerce in the brick-and-mortar setting. The consumer is moving online faster than you might realize. Amazon is changing consumer behavior from going to the store, walking around and waiting in the checkout line to receiving a cardboard box on your doorstep.
Foot traffic is declining, but the level of urgency doesn’t feel commensurate with the level of the threat.
eMarketer: What are the ramifications if retailers don’t act now?
Waldman: They need to meet the consumer where they are—online—with the right experience built around their stores. Otherwise, I think there will be an acceleration of store closures and the same financial results that we saw in the retail industry over the last quarter.
eMarketer: How does Curbside help retailers bring [ecommerce] into the store?
Waldman: We offer a mobile application for curbside pickup. Consumers can pick a nearby store, browse what’s in stock, order it and their order is ready in 30 to 60 minutes. When they pull up to the store, employees inside the store are notified that [the customer is] approaching, and they’re met in front of the store with their order.
We’re also a retail technology provider. The first thing we had in the market was arrival-detection technology, which runs on applications on iPads or Android devices in the store to notify employees that the customer is arriving and helps them do the walkout in a smooth fashion. [Drugstore chain] CVS was the first retailer to come to market with the detection technology. Over the last few months we’ve been building a buy online, pick up in-store solution.
eMarketer: How does Curbside ensure that the inventory data it gets from retailers is accurate?
Waldman: There’s an error rate with all inventory data, even if it’s “real-time” data. But we learn from the history of the readings that we get from our retail partners, and we’re making constant determinations about whether a particular skew is available in the store.
We also make product recommendations to offer a close alternative when something’s out of stock. We have algorithms that recommend substitutions.
eMarketer: How does buy online, pick up in-store size up to curbside pickup?
Waldman: Buy online, pick up in-store hasn’t been implemented well. Nobody thinks about the customer journey end to end. When the customer places the order online, what messages do they get at checkout and via email? How do they know where to go when they get to the store? What is the service level that’s expected at the store? The customer journey starts online and ends in the physical world, and these two experiences need to be seamless. That’s where buy online, pick up in-store falls down.
eMarketer: What can retailers do to improve the store pickup experience?
Waldman: Expectations are set by Amazon and other ecommerce companies that offer a seamless experience to buy and return and reduce friction for their customers. To be able to play in that world, you must have a customer-centric view—think about the experience, figure out what’s broken and work on making it better.
For whatever reason, it’s been hard for retailers to do that. It’s more complicated because they have to carry the online experience to the physical world. For example, don’t dump people in a customer service line to pick up an order. Make it a smooth experience when they get to the store.
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