What’s the value of hot food?

Zach Beattie

Jul 24, 2020

What’s the value of hot food?


Zach Beattie


Jul 24, 2020

We wanted to figure out why things aren’t getting better, so we ran some numbers. We evaluated three metrics that align to the core curbside experience: customer acquisition costs (getting customers to you), shopper wait time reduction (order and arrival), and right-sizing of in-store staffing (delivery).

Customer Acquisition Cost

The average customer acquisition cost (CAC) in retail is $10. As we noted above, customers want a curbside pickup option. If your business can deliver on the core customer experience, a well-run operation can save money.

For example, if you are a big box store with 1000 locations doing 40 orders a day, tapping into that 85% demand means you aren’t spending money to get customers in the door. In this scenario, a conservative 25% improvement on CAC nets $3.65M in savings. However, if you do it wrong, you run the risk of losing that customer for good. Or worse.

voice of the customer

Wait time reduction

Everyone’s time is valuable, and there is nothing more frustrating than feeling like your time is wasted. We wanted to understand what people are experiencing with standard curbside offerings and estimate the tested the potential time of an experience powered by Mapbox.

Our initial order estimate for standard curbside experiences (assuming everything works perfectly) is eight minutes. That includes check-in, employees answering the phone, identifying and collecting the order, finding the shopper, and delivery.

A fully Mapbox-integrated curbside solution can turn orders in as few as two minutes. The reduction comes largely from automated processing and alerts, tied to known decision points in a store. For example, if it takes an average of 10 minutes to pick and pack a customer’s order, you would set a 10-minute geofence so you always know when to pack the order and a 2-minute geofence to know when to start walking the order out to the delivery area.

Staffing for safety and efficiency

Finally, we looked at staffing. For most businesses, curbside is a net new offering and typically requires new, specific tasks that don’t coincide with the day-to-day workflows. Sticking to existing staffing models will require splitting time between regular “on-the-floor” activities and specific curbside activities means that neither gets done efficiently. More workers mean higher costs and higher risks of exposure.

We estimated that for 40 pickups per day, each with a 2-minute promise time, 70% employee utilization rate, and 5-minute abandonment window, a store would need 5 employees to support curbside pickup. When integrated with a Mapbox-powered curbside solution, staff requirements drop from 5 to 3.8.

Where do these savings come from? The end-to-end automation and alerting of a Mapbox-powered system ensures that every team member is moving optimally by automatically surfacing orders, customer ETA, and customer arrival. This saves labor costs and, more importantly, minimizes opportunities for COVID exposure.

The drop

Lower customer acquisition costs, less customer waiting, and lower operating costs. That sounds compelling — so why aren’t we seeing this approach everywhere? As we researched, we realized there is one essential element that wasn’t being considered.

French Fries.

We know that customers want to support local businesses and have safe shopping experiences. COVID has taught us that people will put up with a lot (but not too much). We’re all tolerant of things being fine until they aren’t. For retailers, curbside isn’t just about savings or ROI (although those are more important than ever in a post-COVID marketplace). When curbside is viewed purely as a marketing or survival tactic, where we end up is “Honk real loud when you arrive.”

Instead, think about curbside as another way to express and preserve your brand. Customers expect that when they buy an amazing fried chicken sandwich and pick it up in the parking lot, it’s just as hot as when they buy it in-store. If they need tools, materials, and a big orange bucket for a home project — picking up curbside should be just as efficient as using an app to find the precise aisle and bay that holds the roof paper. We also know that words are cheap. Especially for a business who is worried about making payroll, this ideal system feels completely out of reach.

What does any of that that have to do with French Fries?

The Mapbox curbside architecture is built around preserving that fundamental customer relationship. Our goal is simple: build a framework that ensures zero difference between what customers experience in-store vs curbside.

To meet this goal, we set ourselves a standard: an order of fries needs to drop precisely when a customer is 5 minutes away, bagged when they arrive in the parking lot, and delivered hot when they park. It’s that simple: deliver hot fries or go home.

Running a business is hard enough without software eating your lunch, so we’ve also designed the curbside architecture to be accessible. Owners know what makes their customers tick, and what their own “fry drop moments” are. If you can write down the most important moments for your customers, then we can help you build a curbside service that works for you.

Here to help

Our Solutions Architects recently recorded a curbside webinar. Today we’re releasing the source code for that architecture. It contains everything you need to get started —code for building isochrones, infrastructure for alerts, and a sample front-end to make the data actionable.

We encourage you to try it for yourself. If you get stuck, need more help, or want to do more — reach out. If you need us to verify French fry temperatures, we can do that too.

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