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ALPR for Curbside Pickup – 6 Key Benefits

Consumers increasingly prefer the safety and convenience of buying online, then having their order brought to them at stores and restaurants.  Organizations that provide fast, accurate service get repeat business and higher sales, but doing so is tough.  We’ll explain why using ALPR for curbside pickup benefits everyone.

COVID-19 Drastically Altered Consumer Behavior

Curbside pickup was already a hit with consumers at the beginning of 2020.  Retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy had “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) options that saved time and made life easier.  Chains like Chili’s provided curbside delivery for to-go orders and even had a spot or two designated for customers who preferred that type of service.

Then almost overnight, what was a perk became a public health necessity because of C0VID-19.  Consumers looked for BOPIS options to reduce their risk of exposure to a potentially fatal disease.  

Local and state regulations forced some businesses to close to the public and delivery or drive through became their only option.  Stores that remained open faced unprecedented demand to bring customer orders to them while they stayed in the safety of their vehicles. 

Social distancing and stay home orders forced huge segments of the global population to shop differently.  Take a look at the data on how consumer behavior changed.

  • Buy online pick up in-store orders jumped 87% in March 2020.
  • Curbside pickup surged as much as 208% in the month of April.
  • 75 percent of US consumers report trying a new shopping behavior because of economic pressures, store closings and changing priorities.
  • 77 percent of survey respondents indicate that in the future they will continue to factor in the need for in-person contact when they decide whether or not to visit a business.
ALPR Curbside Pickup Sign

Curbside pickup notice. Source: Pexels.

Key Takeaways

Of the consumers who reported new shopping behaviors, many said that included a shift in loyalty.  They tried new options, and when they had a good experience, those restaurants and retailers became their new go-to choice.

That means new customers are, for many businesses, up for grabs.  There’s a new, fresh opportunity to stand out and win hearts.

Fast, dependable, friendly curbside pickup is a must for stores and restaurants that want to do so.  

One survey points out consumers “overwhelmingly” prefer curbside pickup for dining and retail.  They’ve been shopping that way for months, so online shopping habits are established.  Giants like Walmart and Target are expanding curbside pickup options because it’s here to stay.  Savvy managers of other businesses are wise to do the same.

Many organizations are struggling with this, because providing excellent curbside delivery is challenging.  We’re going to explore those challenges and explain how ALPR for curbside pickup solves them, but first let’s take a quick look at the technology that makes such a huge difference.

What is ALPR?

ALPR is Automated License Plate Recognition, technology that can look at images, isolate license plates, read the characters on those plates and send results to a database.  It’s also sometimes called ANPR, or Automatic Number Plate Recognition or just LPR, License Plate Recognition. 

Organizations are finding a huge range of ways to use this technology to increase efficiency, improve safety and boost profits.  Law enforcement uses ALPR to recover stolen vehicles, identify individuals with arrest warrants and other public safety tasks.  Property owners use ALPR to monitor parking lots and gated subdivision traffic.  And businesses of all sizes in the retail and food service industries are finding ALPR solves their curbside pickup headaches

Curbside Pickup Pitfalls and Challenges

The survey Covid-19 and the Future of Commerce found 87 percent of respondents want restaurants and stores to continue to offer curbside pickup, even when the pandemic crisis has passed.  In the same study, 45 percent of consumers said their curbside experience wasn’t great or that they received poor service.  Their biggest source of dissatisfaction was when service was slow or the order was wrong. 

ALPR Curbside Pickup Online Order

Consumer shopping online. Source: Unsplash.

Pitfall #1: Long Lines Create Friction

If your store or restaurant is successful, you’ll have lots of orders, but that means you also will likely have large numbers of shoppers or diners show up at the same time.  QSR Magazine, a leading authority on restaurant industry news warns, “Long lines of 10, 15 or 20 cars won’t cut it. Many potential customers will drive past…or abandon the line when they tire of waiting.  This means QSRs must act now to reduce wait times in the pickup experience so orders are delivered quickly, accurately, and with minimum to zero contact.”  That’s good advice whether you’re a grocery store, quick service restaurant, home goods provider, apparel store or any other business type. 

Pitfall #2: Manual Check-Ins Rely on Humans

Some businesses that provide curbside pickup send customers an email, text or other digital notification when their order is ready, then rely on the consumer to let them know when they arrive for pickup.  A system that relies on manual check-ins is full of potential for human error.

Some customers check-in before they arrive, so the order is ready too soon.  Food gets cold, merchandise areas are cluttered and employees waste time looking for a vehicle that hasn’t yet arrived.

Other customers forget to check-in.  They sit in their car, getting more frustrated by the minute and possibly typing an angry review on their mobile device.  When they finally flag an employee, they might pour out their irritation on undeserving ears.  Then their order gets put together in a rush, increasing the chances for error.

Some businesses rely on the customer to indicate their vehicle make, model and color.  If the customer makes a mistake, employees waste time looking for the wrong vehicle.

Pitfall #3: Not Everyone Parks in Designated Spaces

Some restaurants have had a few designated parking spaces for to-go customers for years, but for most businesses, the idea of curbside pickup is new.  While yours might have allocated spaces for BOPIS customers, it probably wasn’t long before you noticed consumers didn’t always park as directed.

That creates a challenge for staff when they’re trying to deliver orders.  Just having marked spaces is not enough to make your curbside pickup process a success.

ALPR Curbside Pickup Bad Parking

Consumers parking creatively. Source: Unsplash.

Pitfall #4: Juggling Priorities is Hard for Staff

One of the top reasons businesses use ALPR for curbside pickup is that without it, employees have trouble dividing their time between inside responsibilities and curbside customer needs.   If staff doesn’t stay constantly in the loop, they can’t work efficiently.

If they start preparing an order too early, pulled merchandise piles up, food gets cold and perishables get warm.  If they’re too late, customers are frustrated and valuable parking spaces stay occupied while they wait.  And the more time staff wastes trying to figure out curbside pickup needs, the less they have to help in-store customers.

Pitfall #5: Slow Service Damages Brand Reputations

People get upset when they have to wait.  When they’re mad, they leave bad online reviews, tell family and friends about their experience and next time spend with the competition.  A poor curbside pickup process could mean your brand becomes known for poor customer service.

Pitfall #6: Parking Will Always be Limited

Retailers and restaurants can only add so many extra lanes and curbside delivery parking spaces.  Eventually, they have to find a better way to meet customer needs.  That’s where Plate Recognizer’s ALPR for curbside pickup comes in.

License Plate Recognition Curbside Pickup Order

Streamline Curbside Pickup. Source: Pexels.

How Plate Recognizer’s ALPR Streamlines Curbside Pickup

Plate Recognizer’s technology makes pickup easy on the customer and allows you to make the most efficient use of store manpower. Here’s how it works:

  • Users take a photo of their car’s license plate and submit that with their order. 
  • Store cameras photograph vehicles as customers arrive.
  • Plate Recognizer’s ALPR identifies and decodes the license plates.  Plate Recognizer is also able to do Vehicle Make Model Recognition (VMMR), along with color recognition.  
  • When a customer pulls into a parking spot, staff receives a notification that a Blue Honda Accord with plate 123ABC just arrived on premise.
  • The order is prioritized for efficient delivery to the curb or drive through.
  • Staff quickly locates the vehicle and hands off the items, confident they have the right customer.
  • The consumer is on their way and the next guest has plenty of available parking spaces to choose from.

Plate Recognizer’s powerful ALPR for curbside pickup works with almost any inexpensive IP camera, so restaurant and store owners can put cameras at each parking spot and stay informed of customer arrivals and locations.  Your processes become immediately more efficient, with increasing benefits over time whether you provide groceries, general merchandise, fast food, fine dining or any other product.

Use data to create user profiles for increasingly personalized service.  Track loyal customers or use your LPR data as a way to distribute upsells and promotions. Even more, you can see how often the same customer comes by your strip mall or retail center.

Top 6 Reasons to Use ALPR

A survey from Forrester found 66 percent of consumers say the most important thing a company can do to provide customer satisfaction is to value their time.  When you deliver their order quickly without them even having to tell you they’ve arrived, you prove you do just that.

ALPR Curbside Pickup Customers Hate Waiting

Consumers typically don’t like to wait. Source: Unsplash.

Reason #1: Minimize Customer Wait Time

A survey from Forrester found 66 percent of consumers say the most important thing a company can do to provide customer satisfaction is to value their time.  When you deliver their order quickly without them even having to tell you they’ve arrived, you prove you do just that.

Reason #2: Streamline Internal Operations

When you use ALPR for curbside pickup, restaurants deliver fast, fresh food every time.  Big box store employees don’t struggle with orders that clog the delivery area waiting for time to go out the door.  Grocery stores don’t have to worry about ice cream melting or produce wilting because of an unexpected wait.  Staff can deliver curbside orders quickly and serve inside customers when no pickup customers are present.

Reason #3: Show You Care

Offering drive through and/or curbside pickup shows customers you care about their health.  It also allows you to protect in-store employees who are at risk by allowing them to stay in order fulfillment roles and limit their contact with the public.

Reason #4: Strengthen Brand Image

There’s an old retail adage that says customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.  Using ALPR for curbside pickup shows you prioritize exemplary customer service and strengthens your brand image.  Customers will find it memorable that your brand invests in making their lives easier and healthier.

ALPR Happy Cusotmer from Curbside Pickup

Super-happy customer. Source: Pexels.

Reason #5: Encourage Customer Loyalty

One of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business is to invest in customer retention.  As Harvard Business Review points out, acquiring a new customer costs from 5 to 25 times as much as keeping an old one.  Plate Recognizer’s ALPR for curbside pickup encourages customer loyalty for many reasons.

  • Personalization – Customers feel like you know and recognize them. 
  • Convenience – Once they’ve entered their information once, repeat visits are a breeze.
  • Customer Service – Use ALPR data to cue employees when they’re interacting with a first-time customer or to offer repeat visitors a loyalty promotion.  
  • Simplify Payments – Integrate with your point of sale technology to enable consumers to “pay by plate.”

Reason #6: Improve Security

Our ALPR can also help you identify troublesome or unusual activity.  If you experience theft or vandalism, you have a record of the vehicles that entered and exited your property for the time in question.  It’s like getting parking lot security around the clock without having to pay someone an hourly wage.

License Plate Recognition Curbside Pickup Time to Enjoy

Customer finally gets to enjoy his restaurant order. Source: Pexels.

Try ALPR for Curbside Pickup Free

Shopping behaviors have changed forever, so technology that improves your curbside pickup practices is a long-term investment.  However, you don’t have to spend a dime to experience the benefits of ALPR for curbside pickup. 

Choose Plate Recognizer’s ALPR because it is:

  • Easy to integrate with your back office systems
  • Simple and fast to deploy
  • Incredibly accurate
  • Cutting-edge technology that avoids misreads common to other LPR brands like bumper sticker confusion or mistaking signs on cars for license plate data.

Get a free trial of our Snapshot or Stream to experience automatic license plate recognition software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Get started today.

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About Plate Recognizer

Plate Recognizer provides accurate, fast, developer-friendly Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Sign up for a Free Trial!