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How A Drive-Thru Could Turn Showrooming Into Roadkill

Written by Todd L. Michaud
February 15th, 2012

Todd Michaud spent years leading retail technology teams for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins and today serves as the VP of IT for a billion-dollar franchise restaurant company. He also runs Power Thinking Media, which helps restaurants and retailers with social and mobile challenges.

The whole concept of showrooming bothers me. I keep thinking about how retailers need to turn their retail locations into a strategic asset, rather than a burden. There is no reason retail organizations cannot duplicate (or even improve upon) the online purchase experience of their E-tailer counterparts. If traditional retailers really want to win the war against their online counterparts, I think they need to shift the battlefield from price to convenience. And nothing says “convenience” like “drive-thru,” am I right?

Leveraging brick-and-mortar stores to deliver items ordered online fast and conveniently is the biggest advantage traditional retailers have over their online competition. And yet legacy software decisions and siloed business structures are preventing most retailers from leveraging these assets. Drive-thru retailing is not new. Sure there are examples of where grocery store chains have tried this and failed. But buying fruits and vegetables picked out by someone else is a tough gap to cover. And yes, Sears tried this approach a few years ago with a drive-thru-only location that wasn’t the breakthrough the chain had hoped.

But hear me out. It wasn’t until just recently that I felt this concept was really ready for prime time. There is a convergence of technologies that will drive the success of the next ventures in retail drive-thru: merged-channel retailing (any product via any channel), smartphone adoption by customers and the growth of mobile transactions, the ease of online transaction processing (one-click ordering), and the application of software tools for pick/pack (from the warehouse) and task management.

The fact is, I buy a lot of things from Amazon. I have three young kids, and it’s a hassle to drag them through my favorite places to shop without at least one having some sort of meltdown. On the other hand, Amazon makes it frictionless to buy something. The only problem is that I have to wait two days to get it, which really sucks.

After picking up the kids from school one day when my wife was out of town, I tried to come up with a plan for dinner. Although I am not exactly a whiz in the kitchen, I also dreaded the idea of managing all three kids in a restaurant on my own (one man does not a zone defense make). I decided to use my phone to order pizzas from California Pizza Kitchen and get them delivered to curbside, so I wouldn’t have to unbuckle the little angels when we picked up our food.

It struck me there are plenty of other retail opportunities just like this one. How, if I could order products online or via mobile and pick them up in “real-time,” then it would dramatically increase the likelihood of my shopping there simply because of the “kid barrier” that it removes.


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2 Comments | Read How A Drive-Thru Could Turn Showrooming Into Roadkill

  1. ed Says:

    Probably the most effective way to stop showrooming is for the retailer to build their own app for customers to use.

  2. Shirley Says:

    Not only would it help those of us with little ones – and one of us (the kids or adults) having a meltdown ;) … it could also help those with disabilities from having to get out of the vehicle as well.

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