As part of the American Booksellers Association’s new “The Top 10 Things to Know About...” educational series, Bookselling This Week reached out to several booksellers around the country to compile a list of 10 tips for bookstores offering curbside pickup and delivery services this holiday season.
Here are the top 10 things booksellers should keep in mind:
- Make a dedicated space for your store’s pickup area.
- Be prepared for the amount of space you need for coordinating orders to vary as orders ebb and flow.
- As the weather gets colder, make your pickup location a place customers can pull up to in their cars.
- Set up a phone number that customers using curbside pickup can text when they arrive.
- Provide clear instructions about where and how to pick up orders as well as safety precautions to take.
- If offering delivery, consolidate deliveries to designated days of the week.
- Take advantage of the opportunities curbside pickup and delivery services offer — write personalized notes for people picking up or capture a social media moment during a delivery.
- Keep a solid paper trail to track all the steps taken during curbside pickup and delivery. Having a record helps you know exactly what went into a box or when it was delivered.
- Track your deliveries with a Google spreadsheet and mapping software.
- Consider waiting to bag items until right before a customer arrives to be sure the bag holds up (or ask if they even want a bag).
Here’s a more thorough recap of what booksellers had to say:
Holly Weinkauf at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota
- For now, we have our curbside pickup spot located on our front patio. It’s a nice area for people to wait while we bring out their books. Once the snow hits, we’ll move our pickup area, which will make it easier for people to pull up by car.
- We set up a dedicated texting number for pickup, which goes to a store iPad. We also include our instructions for pickup when we update people on their online orders and, of course, tell them our pickup instructions when we talk to them on the phone.
- At first, we were putting everything in bags right away, but if things sat for a while, the bags didn’t hold up so well. Now we wait to put items in bags until the customer is here to pick them up.
Candice Anderson at Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida
- Plan to make space for the pickup queue. One challenge has been creating an area to stage and organize the books waiting to be picked up. That number can ebb and flow from week to week, so the amount of space you’re going to need is probably greater than you might initially think.
- In the beginning, we were bagging every pickup order, but as time has passed we found we were going through a lot more bags than usual. We have started to ask people if they want a bag or not, and since many more customers are conservation-minded, I think they actually appreciate not being handed a bag every time.
- Communication with customers is so important when introducing a new service like curbside pickup or delivery. Think through every step of the process and give very clear instructions to the customers. Not because any of this is very complicated, but because during the pandemic, we have found that our customers are more at ease when they know what to expect.
- Deliveries have been a great success for us, particularly during the strictest lockdown period. We plan to continue to offer deliveries but we will consolidate them to designated days of the week.
- These new modes of getting books to folks have created opportunities to go the extra mile. Stay alert to that, whether it’s writing personalized notes or capturing a social media moment during a delivery.
- Keep a solid paper trail. Everything is a special order now and we’ve been happy more than once to have a record of what went into a box or when it was delivered. More steps means more potential stumbles.
- Consider setting up an ARC cart. We celebrated our six-month bookstore birthday with a cart of old ARCs outside for pickup customers and they loved it.
Dave Lucey at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina
- Track your deliveries.
- We have a Google spreadsheet that has a tab for each day and we put the address and order number for each delivery. We use that to create the route in the mapping software.
- It also has come in handy when a question has come up about a delivery (usually a couple of weeks later) and we can go back to the sheet. Sometimes a package gets accidentally dropped at the wrong house or a spouse brought it in and didn’t let the other person know. Having the details recorded has allowed us to get each issue solved quickly.