Retailers meet customers where they are - in their cars

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Domino's app on Apple CarPlay
Customers can now order via the Domino’s iOS app on Apple CarPlay.

Retailers are finding a variety of ways to reach out to shoppers who are behind the wheel.

The average U.S. consumer spends a lot of time in their car. Fast food restaurants have been targeting customers in their autos with drive-thru locations for decades. But now, retailers in fast food and other verticals are providing a variety of solutions and services for the driving consumer.

Join me as I take a look at how Target lets shoppers make returns without leaving their car, Domino’s takes mobile orders from car radios, and Subway is gearing a new store concept around the refueling needs of electric vehicle drivers.

Target – Curbside returns

Discount giant Target is on track to offer curbside returns at all of its stores by the end of summer 2023. Following a successful pilot launched in February 2022, Target began enabling customers to make drive-up product returns at about 25% of its U.S. stores in mid-April, and is said to be on track to offer the service nationwide by the end of summer 2023.

Through the drive-up returns offering, customers can return most new, unopened items for free. Customers start a curbside return from the order details section of the Target app and then notify the retailer via app when they’re on their way to the selected store. Upon arrival, customers pull into a Drive Up spot and tap “I’m here” in the app.

After handing the return off to the store associate who comes to their car, the customer will get a return confirmation via email and in the app. Refunds are given in the original form of payment.

Domino’s – Mobile car orders

Drivers with the Domino’s iOS app can now easily place orders from their vehicles. The world’s largest pizza retailer is unveiling two new ordering options via its iOS app on Apple CarPlay, which enables a consumer to control their app using their car radio.

A new “Tap to Order” function lets customers submit their saved order or one of their most recent orders, while "Call to Order" allows them to place the order of their choice, hands-free, by talking to a customer service representative.

To place Domino's orders via CarPlay, customers a log into their online “pizza profile,” pull up a saved or recently placed order for the Tap to Order option, select the Domino's app on Apple CarPlay and then place their order.

Subway

Quick-service sandwich chain Subway is focusing store expansion on non-traditional locations that could be described as geared toward the needs of customers who are on the move.

These include an initiative the restaurant giant is pursuing in partnership with GenZ EV Solutions, a provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions, that will eventually include the opening of “Subway Oasis” charging parks at select locations. The parks will feature charging canopies with multiple ports, picnic tables, Wi-Fi, restrooms, green space and playgrounds.

As part of its multi-year plan to roll out the charging parks, Subway will also pilot smaller-format, fast EV charging stations this year at select, new or newly remodeled Subway restaurants. GenZ EV Solutions is working with Red E Charging, a fast-growing EV charging network, to provide the equipment and operating expertise for the EV charging stations and Subway Oasis.

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