The mall that elevated experiential shopping to gigantic proportions is now trying to find its relevance for online shopping. Mall of America recently launched its own e-commerce platform where consumers can shop at 70 of its stores with a single unified checkout cart and same-day mall pickup.
“We want to make shopping as easy as possible,” said Grant Buntje, MOA’s vice president of marketing. “Our model is based on convenience.”
This includes a delivery option for those within 15 miles of the Bloomington, Minnesota mall and a package pickup point near an entrance, allowing you to grab and go without having to walk through the 5 building. 6 million square feet. It’s the opposite of the discovery and entertainment model that those in the mall industry have been preaching for decades, even as they have steadily lost ground to e-commerce, which is expected to reach $1 trillion in revenue. sales in the United States in 2022, according to Statista. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of online shopping. Today, 80% of American consumers say they buy online. And throughout the pandemic, consumers have grown accustomed to conveniences like curbside pickup and delivery.
Experience + Convenience
Buntje, a former brand director at creative agency Knock Inc. who also worked for the Minnesota Retailers Association, has been pondering how to combine experience and convenience — two seemingly conflicting retail goals — since 2019. when MOA hired him to “build a roadmap to make the mall shoppable online. MOA partnered with Adeptmind, an artificial intelligence technology company specializing in creating personalized e-commerce experiences for brick-and-mortar retailers. According to Anne Mezzenga, co-founder of Minneapolis-based retail lab Third Haus and retail blog and podcast Omni Talk, up to 65 malls across the United States and Canada are currently working with Adeptmind and more will go live next year.
“It’s critical to the survival of mall retailers,” Mezzenga said. “It enables a digital discovery and shopping experience that meets the needs of consumers today and tomorrow, and most importantly for the mall owner, those sales, while happening online, are attributed to the location of the store in the mall.”
When a consumer browses LL Bean on mallofamerica.com, they are actually purchasing inventory from LL Bean’s Mall of America store. Purchases made online come directly from the store’s selling floor and count as in-store sales for that location, rather than an online sale for the business. “We basically observe and analyze inventory in real time,” Buntje said of the MOA e-commerce platform. The majority of the mall’s participating retailers are large national companies like Macy’s, Gap and Lululemon, but Buntje said the mall is committed to making e-commerce work for its smaller local tenants as well.
Mezzenga tried out the service in the fall, when MOA’s e-commerce software launched with little fanfare. She ordered a shirt and blazer from her office in Linden Hills and videotaped the shopping bag arriving within hours. “It solves the problem – ‘I need this blazer today’ – without having to set foot in the mall of running circles around it.”
But that’s not enough need to sustain a retail giant, said Chad Hetherington, co-founder and CEO of The Stable, a Minneapolis-based commerce agency that helps brands place their products on stores. retail channels, from store shelves to e-commerce and social.
“I think in theory it’s a very smart idea. Giving customers a choice of how they want to shop (physically or digitally) and enabling a frictionless experience for payment through pickup and delivery,” Hetherington said. “That said, MOA is known as a destination for physical retail, given its rich history and unique retail concepts and experiences. The fact that 40% of visitors to MOA are tourists, I think it will take some time for them to come to fruition. Will it work? Yes. But how well? We’ll have to wait and see.”
For now, MOA is closely tracking online orders to find out what customers want. The Mall of America just started promoting the service this month: “Skip the lines. Buy online,” prompts its website and is currently offering 15% off online orders along with free local delivery. “We’re seeing a good mix of pickup and delivery orders,” Buntje said. “We’re learning a lot about how customers shop online versus in person and thinking about ways to increase in-store sales.”
Buntje thinks the ability to shop at dozens of retailers in one place, with a single checkout cart, is the high-tech equivalent of the “discovery” that occurs while walking through a mall. Says Buntje, “We think about the power of shopping versus buying.”