Optimizing Order for Pickup in time of Crisis

Rakuten Ready

Posted by: Rakuten Ready / April 23, 2020

It seems to have happened overnight, but our daily lives have drastically changed. One of the most significant changes is how we shop now for basic necessities like groceries and takeout. As a result, essential businesses among groceries, retailers, and restaurants are trying to understand how to move ahead in this new environment, especially with the rise of contactless ordering.

Merchants face many challenges:

  • Predictable ordering patterns and customer habits have disappeared
  • Revenues vary drastically vs previous norms, and for many, have fallen devastatingly lower than before
  • Consumers are worried about their health and safety when shopping or picking up in-person and insist on contactless ordering

One tool that has become a lifeline for businesses, due to customer concerns or newly formed policies (Shelter in Place, social distancing, etc), is Order for Pickup. Order for Pickup is beneficial for many reasons. 

  1. Keeps your team and consumers safer, by enabling more contactless fulfillment and lowering wait times
  2. Increases operational efficiency since orders can be prepared ahead of time and with less touches
  3. More profitable, as it eliminates delivery fees and increases throughput

Many merchants are new to prioritizing Order for Pickup, so understanding how to optimize and best serve customers can be a challenge given the influx of demand. As a result, consumers have experienced hiccups in service when they pick up their orders including:

  • Orders not being ready at the expected time
  • Social distancing rules being broken when waiting for their order
  • Wait time for orders can be way too long (i.e. 6+ minutes)
  • Confusion with notifications on how/where to pick up orders

One way to combat the consumer challenges is to better understand when consumers will arrive to pick up their orders. When you have arrival times tied to your Order for Pickup programs, you can adjust your team’s operations to create the best customer experience, including contactless ordering, as well as adhere to existing social distancing rules. 

For instance, if you know your customer is arriving soon you can pack up the order and have it ready for contactless handoff, as they pull up. This allows you to avoid having multiple customers clustering while they wait; it also streamlines employee resourcing for order fulfillment, so you are proactive rather than reactive to order handoff. 

We find that customers arrive at predictable patterns – ASAP, scheduled or anytime. Read more about these arrival patterns here: Don’t Be Fooled. Arrival Times Impact Your Brand Experience.

With COVID-19, consumer Order for Pickup arrival patterns still hold. However what is interesting is that the arrival patterns change based upon regional consumer demand – therefore, merchants need different approaches regarding how to use arrival times.

Grocery / Essential Retail:

Essential retailers such as grocers, pharmacies, and warehouse clubs have actually seen an increase in business. While some of the hoarding practices are beginning to subside, consumer shopping habits have changed in that they purchase more per trip than before. Consumers are fearful and venturing out less, which leads to many opting for Order for Pickup, particularly Curbside Pickup. 

To solve the strong demand challenge, retailers need to optimize by packing and preparing orders based upon customer arrival time – retailers such as Kroger, Petsmart, and Petco are leaning on Rakuten Ready’s ARRIVE to do this.  ARRIVE provides a time-based location technology that accurately predicts when a customer is arriving so merchants can prepare for their arrival ahead of time, allowing retailers to minimize wait times while addressing customer health concerns, and increasing throughput. 

Here is how ARRIVE can help keep the pickup process contactless, for both random customer arrivals, as well as scheduled arrivals:

Random Arrivals:  Without predictive arrival technology, retailers or grocers have no visibility into when customers will show up. The randomness of when they will arrive can create safety concerns (such as everyone showing up at the same time or employees violating social distancing rules in order to fulfill orders quickly).  With ARRIVE, employees get an alert about an approaching customer, allowing store employees to prep the order so it’s ready when they arrive, while also minimizing contact risk for customers and employees.

Scheduled Arrivals:  Allowing customers to choose a window to pick up their order also lowers contact risk.  By understanding exactly when customers will arrive during their scheduled pickup, retailers can reduce the time consumers are waiting around and better enables social distancing, to keep everyone safe. With COVID-19, this is the type of approach customers are now expecting.  


For restaurants, demand has fallen drastically. They have been left grappling with how to survive and have turned to delivery and Order for Pickup to drive all demand.

Technology such as Rakuten Ready ARRIVE can help with managing your order queues to make sure customers are in and out of as quickly as possible, keeping employees safe with well-choreographed contactless protocols.

Going back to our arrival patterns, we expect consumers with Order for Pickup to either want to pick up their order as soon as they place the order, or to set up a specific scheduled time. Here is how ARRIVE enables contactless ordering:

Immediate Arrivals: Customers still want to pick up hot food. While you’re practicing good food safety, understanding arrival times for customers who are coming in right away allows you to prepare orders at just the right time, limiting food from being out longer than it needs to be. It also lets you get consumers in and out as quickly as possible.  ARRIVE can help optimize this scenario by alerting employees to when customers are arriving and prioritizing those orders to minimize wait times and optimize contactless protocols.

Scheduled Arrivals: Many customers prefer scheduling their order pickups. Here there is a time window where it’s an appointment time or even hour long windows. By using ARRIVE to understand when they are arriving, you can reduce the number of people waiting for food, practice good social distancing and implement contactless protocols. Store Operators can optimize their pickup windows for more throughput, with confidence provided by ARRIVE trip data and analytics.

 Rakuten Ready is here to help!

Order for Pickup is now top of mind, with every brand we talk to, as it is one of the only options available to keep most businesses running.  We have never seen so much change, so quickly. To do this, brands must make the fulfillment experience as efficient, contactless and safe as possible for customers and employees.

Rakuten Ready has years of proven experience with brands of all sizes, so we can help. Connect with us to understand how ARRIVE can assist your brand through these challenging times.

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