Drive-Up Grocery Stores

Drive-Up Grocery Stores

In a world that has become dependent on expediency and convenience, the importance for business owners to stay at the forefront of what’s trending in their industry is paramount.  According to recent studies, a trend that is impacting the food industry is the concept of drive-up service.  While not a new concept for stores with limited offerings like QSR’s and liquor stores, the inclusion of a drive-up service is a newer business model for a sector of the food industry offering large assortments of products: grocery stores.

The first self-serve grocery store in the United States was built in 1916.  Since then, product offerings, hours of operation, size of markets, and overall customer experience have all impressively expanded.  With customer-centric improvements like these, it is no surprise that the drive-up concept has been popping up at grocery stores across the country as another way to provide a positive shopping experience for the customer.

So, how does it work?

The drive-up concept typically offers customers the ability to create their shopping list online from the comfort of their smart device or home computer.  This allows the customer to cross-reference their list with what’s currently in their kitchen, remove items if they’ve gone over their budget, and save grocery lists, making future re-order simple.

After the order is placed online, the customer selects a timeslot that best suits their schedule to pick-up the groceries at the store.  This quick in-and-out pick-up service seems to be resonating well with business professionals crunched for time, moms with young ones in the car, and shoppers with disabilities.

From the customer’s perspective, there are some obvious benefits to using a grocery store’s drive-up service, but is it beneficial to all grocery store owners?  If done correctly, the digital platform used to facilitate this concept can provide key analytics like demographics, search history, and buying habits to store owners about their customers.  Further, this type of service could attract customers that may not have typically shopped at that location.

But, like with any other new business concept, there are logistical considerations that need to be thought through in order to decide if this concept is right for your store:

    • Does your store have enough parking lot space to accommodate a separate pick-up area? Will there need to be specialized construction to accommodate this type of service?
    • How will you best direct customers to the pick-up location? Wayfinding signs?  On-building signage?  Painted directional messages on the pavement?
    • What technology needs to be in place to facilitate this concept? What are the costs associated with this technology?
    • What additional staff is needed to successfully launch this concept?
    • How do you substitute for items that are currently out-of-stock?
    • How will the store make up for losses in in-store impulse buying if customers aren’t physically walking up and down the aisles?

 

The addition of a drive-up is a difficult decision, but given the right demographics, proper planning, and well-trained operators, the concept could prove quite profitable.

It is to be determined if the concept of drive-ups will eventually eliminate the need to physically shop in a grocery store, but odds are it will not.  There will likely always be customers who still prefer to walk into the store to handpick items like meats, fruits, and vegetables and some who simply enjoy the traditional experience.  While the drive-up is not necessarily a replacement concept, it may be a great addition to your current store set-up.  So, if you haven’t already considered this option for your grocery store, the right time may be now.