Target tries out a mobile app that lets shoppers pick up online orders at the curb

January 6, 2015 02:53 PM

Target Corp. is one of the first retailers to deploy the Curbside app, which allows shoppers to go to Target to pick up their purchases without leaving the car.

Consumers download the free app, select which Target store they would like to shop from, select and pay for the products they want via the app and choose in-store pickup. Prices are the same in the app as on Target’s web site and the items offered reflect the selected store’s inventory available for store pick-up. The app won’t display items that are out of stock.

Target, No. 37 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500,  employees gather the products, as they would for an order the consumer is picking up in a store, however, the items are flagged as Curbside orders. Curbside employees then pick up the items from the in-store pick-up area and deliver it to a delivery station, usually a tent for now, in front of the store. They also send an alert to the customer that the purchases are ready.

Curbside launched Oct. 6, 2014, after securing $9.5 million in funding. Consumers can use the app to shop at 11 Target stores in California and 19 other retailers within the Westfield Oakridge Mall in San Jose, CA. During the holidays, Curbside employees would gift wrap purchases for shoppers for free.

When a shopper drives up to a participating store, the app alerts Curbside employees at the store who collect the shopper’s purchases and deliver it to the car. After confirming the identity of the shopper, the employee places the goods in the car and the shopper drives off.  

Target has “already seen good adoption” of Curbside, says a Target spokesman who declines to provide details. 

“It’s still early but we’re excited that it is going well,” he says.

From order to pick-up, the process could be completed within an hour, says Curbside CEO and founder Jaron Waldman. Once a shopper arrives in the Target parking lot, the transaction takes a matter of seconds, Waldman says.

Curbside is available whenever a participating Target store is open so shoppers can choose whenever they want to pick up their goods.

“One of the advantages is that flexibility, you’re not needing to schedule to be there,” Waldman says. “Swing by after work and get it whenever it is convenient for you.” It also means the shopper doesn’t have to be home when a delivery service arrives with the order.

If a consumer doesn’t pick up an order within a few days, Curbside sends the shopper a reminder alert.

The Target stores reserve three parking spaces for Curbside customers so they can easily go into the Target store if they choose to, Waldman says. 

There is no cost to the consumer for using Curbside. Curbside takes a percentage of each sale, but Waldman would not disclose how much. Waldman contends the service increases purchase frequency, as Curbside reports more than 50% of customers who purchase with Curbside use the service again.

This is a test to see if consumers would be interested in this kind of service, says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, a Forrester Research Inc. vice president and principal analyst who covers online retailing. “Since it's in beta, I'm sure no one is making money,” she says. “Everyone is just trying to see if it can be done and if consumers will even use the service.” She adds that a retailer benefits from Curbside handling the work of holding products until a shopper picks them up, and of alerting consumers who don’t come by in a short time.

Because of weather concerns, Curbside is looking into using indoor kiosks or semi-permanent structures, as opposed to the tents it uses now. A recent storm that drove the Curbside tent inside, gave the company a sense of how strong its location technology was when the staff couldn’t see shoppers pull up, and the location signal “held up pretty well” indoors Waldman says. This test gave Curbside confidence in the technology as it prepares to move into markets where the weather is colder in 2015, he says.

Follow mobile business journalist April Dahlquist, associate editor, mobile, at Internet Retailer, at @MobileInsiderAD.




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