Contactless delivery and BOPIS

Contactless delivery and BOPIS: How retailers can adapt to serve consumers amid COVID-19

  • David Esber
    Dave Esber
  • May 22, 2020

For retailers looking to embrace contactless delivery and adapt to future changes, app-based disruptors offer guidance.

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On-demand apps led the first wave of a shift to contactless order fulfillment. As brick and mortar retailers begin to reopen for BOPIS and contactless delivery, we look to examples from app-based experiences that show how every business can adapt, in this on-demand webinar.


In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the first companies to adopt a contactless delivery offering were mobile applications like grocery delivery app Instacart, with its Leave at My Door Delivery option. Offerings like this weren’t necessarily intended to meet demand caused by shelter in place orders, but widespread interest quickly grew regardless.

Dozens of other app-based services rolled out similar offers, but as more retail and dining locations—and especially those relying on physical brick and mortar storefronts—come back online, there are lessons for every business, both-app based and not, that can help promote a safe shopping experience for consumers and employees.

Contactless delivery and its applications across retail

Contactless delivery takes different forms in every business, sometimes involving Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) for retailers with both a physical location and online store.

For others, it relies on couriers or delivery services who place items at your doorstep without coming in contact with the consumer.

Because every business has unique offerings and business processes, there isn’t one single model for how contactless or curbside delivery plays out.

There is, however, increased demand for these low-content shopping options, with analysts reporting a 34 percent increase in BOPIS offerings in the past six weeks. Consumers are also using cash less, making in-app purchasing more desirable.

Looking to apps-based disruptors for lessons

For retailers looking to embrace this new normal, and adapt to future changes, app-based disruptors offer guidance.

App-based experiences are closed ecosystems, with identity verification and tightly controlled UI elements that help customers stay informed and guide them through the purchase process.

Any business that has deployed an app knows it’s hard to get users to download it and use it—and even harder to maintain (especially when it’s not a core part of your business). Downloads and usage are going through the roof during shelter in place orders, but the top-performing apps aren’t business applications; they’re entertainment and communications ones.

There are three lessons to learn from these successful apps that every business can deploy as they look to adapt to the new normal:

  • Know your customer and verify their identity,

  • Keep them informed throughout the process,

  • and keep them connected to you and your frontline employees.

Know your customer

Most app registration processes include an option to register your phone number, or require you to do so. The simple reason? It’s important to ensure the credentials being used, a phone number or email address, actually belong to the end-user.

This also ensures you have the right contact information to provide updates throughout their journey. It’s not just about identifying a user, but actually authenticating their identity (and that’s where security questions often go wrong). We’ve put together some thoughts on how that can be done for consumers calling into a support line, but the same principles apply across the customer journey.

In any crisis, bad actors will seek to take advantage of confusion, and that’s unfortunately been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Since traditional methods of verifying identity like showing an ID or signing for a package are no longer an option with contactless protocol, this verification step becomes important throughout the customer journey at sign-up, login, payment, and fulfillment.

Watch our on-demand webinar that shares best practices for collecting and using phone numbers for identity proofing.

Keep them informed

While many inboxes are likely full of promotional offers and updates to services during these “uncertain times,” it’s more important than ever to communicate with your customer—but it’s also more important than ever to do so using the right channel and with the right type of content.

We recently surveyed consumers about the types of information they would like to hear from businesses and more than half said they’d like to hear critical updates about material changes to availability of their products and services. It’s easy to overdo it, but when asked how often they’ve felt annoyed by communications they’ve received, 73 percent of consumers said never, rarely, or occasionally.

Get your copy of our 2020 Guide to Messaging.

It’s always a good practice (and often the law) to only use opted-in channels and to consider the value of the communication to the consumer and the channel on which you’re sending it. Apps often have an advantage here: the consumer placing the order is a captive audience and often refers back to a timeline, workflow or map for updates. The same experience can be replicated with a combination of SMS or WhatsApp messages or emails.

We’ve put together a tutorial on building curbside notifications that keep customers up-to-date throughout the pickup process and keeps your employees informed, as well.

Keep them connected

Leading retailers like are already beginning to embrace conversational messaging for simple issue resolution, and to improve connections between employees and consumers. In our 2020 State of Customer Engagement Report we shared that businesses must prepare to have two-way conversations with their customers on multiple channels over time. Without the ability to visit a store and roam the aisles, retailers are reconceptualizing their physical stores, and in-store employees are serving new roles from curbside pickup operators to customer service representatives.

Much like app-based experiences offer secure communication between a delivery employee or driver and a consumer using masked phone numbers with sessions that expire at the end of the transaction, brick and mortar retailers are embracing this technology as well.

Using a combination of intelligent assistants and humans, some retailers are allowing customers to text in when they arrive in a parking lot and provide the make, model, and color of their vehicle to help them complete the order.

Whether through a basic chatbot, intelligent assistant, or human, keeping customers connected throughout the order process is as simple as allowing them to reply back to your communications in a secure and archivable way.

Explore key trends shaping customer experience in retail and best practices from market leaders.

Completing the experience

As we all adjust to a new way of doing business, there will continue to be businesses who lead the way in helping all of us create the new normal. Critically, it’s about listening to customers and employees and understanding the challenges they face in adjusting to this new way of doing business. By knowing our customers, keeping them informed as the situation changes day-to-day, and giving them an easy way to get support, you’re well on the way to doing just that.

For businesses who traditionally rely on foot-traffic, the switch to contactless delivery can be uncharted territory. Explore examples from app-based experiences that show how every business can adapt, in this on-demand webinar.

Watch our webinar

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David Esber

Dave Esber

Dave Esber is a senior product marketing manager at Twilio, where he works to bring programmable messaging products, like SMS and rich messaging channels, to market. He has deep expertise in messaging compliance, channel optimization, and conversational messaging. Since joining Twilio in 2017, he has helped to grow Twilio's footprint in the enterprise space with a focus on omnichannel communication solutions.