Curbside Pickup Goes Mall-Wide This Holiday Season

curbside pickup Mall of America feature

Image credit: Mall of America

While Happy Returns has solved for the efficient consolidation of ecommerce returns at its growing network of mall-based returns bars, curbside pickup is getting a makeover as shoppers will now be able to corral online orders from multiple stores at the same mall.

Curbside pickup became a hugely important and popular fulfillment offering during the pandemic lockdowns, and its popularity appears to be sticking. According to DigitalCommerce360, more than half of the 211 retail chains in its top 1,000 offer curbside, up from just 6.6% before COVID-19 hit.

And in tandem with this, the ongoing Greek chorus of “retail is dead” has been exaggerated once again, with 75% of sales happening in stores and bouncing back along with general reopenings, according to Deloitte.

Curbside is also a supply chain win for retailers who save on last-mile delivery and can benefit from incremental foot-traffic sales, although balancing store and hub inventory levels can prove tricky without an up-to-date OMS.

BlueDot, a provider of mobile app location technology, and AdeptMind, creator of an AI-based product discovery platform, have teamed up to enable shoppers to pick up online orders from multiple retailers at a single mall location.

The partners say one major mall operator they wouldn’t name has already implemented the joint solution. Starting on the east coast, that company plans to expand availability of curbside pickup ahead of the holiday shopping season to retail and restaurant tenants across multiple properties, expanding throughout the U.S.

We asked Judy Chan, CMO of Bluedot, to explain more about the solution, how it works and the partners’ future plans.

MCM: How do the two companies make this happen?

Chan: The integrated solution essentially allows consumers to shop the mall within one app without leaving home. Adeptmind’s AI technology lets them browse the product selection from multiple retailers and complete their purchases online before picking them up at the mall.

When shoppers are ready, Bluedot’s mobile location technology in the app provides their ETA, alerting mall staff the moment a shopper arrives so they’re greeted by name with their purchases consolidated at the designated pickup location.

MCM: Given the huge importance of curbside pickup for retailers, how do you foresee this type of pickup consolidation impacting the experience for retail customers?

Chan: To compete with ecommerce-only sales, the customer experience at malls must be redefined, and of course operators know this. Curbside pickup has improved speed and convenience, but there’s still an incredible amount of friction when shoppers have to pull into a designated curbside space for each store, flag down the staff and wait for their purchases with limited, if any personalized service.

It’s a completely new level of service that will help operators and retailers compete with online giants during the upcoming holiday season. Mobile technology including location and AI is the critical component.

MCM: I guess the real value is multi-store consolidation, although I wonder about consumer reaction and behavior, i.e., this is new territory vs. single-store pickup. Is she going to buy from multiple stores at one mall to make the consolidation part work?

Chan: The real value proposition is bringing stores together in a one-stop shop, eliminating the need to go store to store, checking out and then figuring out how pickup will work. During the holiday season especially, consumer demand is there.

Whether a shopper purchases from one store or multiple stores, the customer experience is seamless, convenient and personalized. On arrival, the purchases are ready the moment the shopper pulls up and they’re greeted by name.

I think adoption will be partly driven by how successful mall operators market this new approach and convenience. Customers will be receptive once they experience how valuable it is, whether saving time, delivering on convenience or reducing stress.

Malls can’t survive on foot traffic alone. They’re using technology to help them innovate and look at different touchpoints before shoppers are on site. There has to be an omnichannel solution to reach them digitally throughout the customer journey to compete with online giants, retain foot traffic and grow store sales. They are using their physical footprint to their advantage because consumers “want it now.”

MCM: As far as I know, this is the first multi-store collection point for ecommerce orders.

Chan: That’s correct. Never before have consumers been able to shop the mall in one app and pick up all their purchases at one time, at a single curbside location.

MCM: I know you can’t name the mall operator you’re working with, but are there discussions with other big operators like Macerich, Simon, General Growth, Westfield, etc.?

Chan: We’re currently working with a large operator and anticipate working with others in the near future.