Target’s Drive Up pickup service expands nationwide

Target’s same-day curbside pickup service, Drive Up, has now reached all 50 U.S. states, the retailer announced on Thursday. The service allows consumers to shop online then pull up to designated spaces at their local store to have their purchases ferried to their vehicle by Target staff.

Drive Up has rolled out to Target stores at a fairly fast pace, given the technology requirements, infrastructure and operational changes required to support these fast-to-fill online orders.

The company in April 2018 introduced Drive Up to its first locations outside of Target’s hometown market of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where it had been in testing since October 2017. With the public launch, Drive Up was immediately available across nearly 270 stores in Florida, Texas and the Southeast. By summer 2018, it had reached over 800 stores, with plans to reach 1,000 by year-end.

Instead, it hit the 1,000-store milestone in October 2018.

And with the start of this year’s back-to-school shopping season, Drive Up became available at more than 1,500 stores.

With the expansion announced today, Drive Up has now reached 1,750 stores, thanks to recent rollouts in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. As it launches in new locations, Target will often dole out free product samples as a perk for its first customers and to encourage repeat business.

Overall, Drive Up seems to be working to bring more consumers to its stores — even if they don’t come inside.

In less than two year’s time, Drive Up has become one of Target’s best-rated services. During its most recent earnings, Target noted that it had more than doubled the total number of Drive Up orders in 2018 by fulfilling nearly 5 million orders within the first part of this year alone.

The retailer also recently noted that roughly one in five customers placing a same-day order in Q2 were placing an order with Target for the first time.

The back-end side of Drive Up has improved over time, as well, with improvements to optimize both order picking and delivery of curbside orders to customers.

At launch, Target was committing to fulfill Drive Up orders within two hours. Today, Target says it’s able to offer fulfillment by Drive Up in as soon as one hour.

By this holiday season, Target says that “most” of its 1,855 U.S. stores will offer Drive Up service.

“We’ve heard the message loud and clear from our guests: They absolutely love the ease and convenience of Drive Up, whether they’re shopping for household essentials, road trip snacks or baby gear,” said Dawn Block, senior vice president, digital, in a statement about the nationwide expansion. “So our team has worked hard to rapidly expand the service since its introduction less than two years ago to all 50 states. And the work’s not done. The team’s continuing to find ways to make the service even better.”

The service is not without competition, however.

Walmart Grocery offers curbside pickup at over 2,500 locations. Sam’s Club in July announced same-day pickup nationwide. Amazon, which has historically lacked a brick-and-mortar presence, has been quick to react to the threat of curbside pickup. Most recently, it announced a new partnership with Rite Aid, that will see the arrival of a “Counter” service — a free, in-store pickup option — at 1,500 Rite Aid locations by year-end. (Amazon also offers grocery pickup at select Whole Foods.)

However, in-store pickup isn’t quite as convenient as curbside service. And that’s especially true for curbside’s top demographic: parents — often those with young children. Among Target Drive Up’s best-sellers, for example, are things like diapers, wipes and formula.

Drive Up is one of several ways Target is fighting back against Amazon. The company also now owns same-day delivery service Shipt, offers online order pickup and subscriptions to common household items and runs a Prime Pantry competitor with next-day service, Target Restock.