Online shopping is not yet as prevalent in Canada as in the U.S., but the trend line is clear, says Egil Moller Nielsen, senior vice president for e-commerce at SmartCentres, Canada's largest shopping center developer. A search for new ways to serve these customers led the company to launch Penguin Pickup, which provides a convenient location at shopping centers where online shoppers can have all their purchases delivered. Curb service means that drivers picking up packages don’t even have to leave their cars.
“We are the only retail landlord in the world trying to look ahead and attract e-commerce customers,” Nielsen says. “Consumers can order from any online merchant and ship to our location rather than their home address. They pull into our parking lot and we bring the goods to them - it’s all done in less than 90 seconds. Then if they want to shop in our stores, they can do that as well.”
Consumers sign up for the free service on the Penguin Pickup web site. When they order online they give a Penguin Pickup location as the “ship to” address. Several large retailers already have integrated Penguin Pickup into their checkout process so that it is offered as a menu option, Nielsen says.
Only a few Penguin Pickup locations are open as yet, but SmartCentres has nearly 300 locations across Canada, so more are planned. Nielsen notes that the company very recently expanded the service to include fresh and frozen foods. “Demand exceeded capacity during the first week of launch, so we had to go and buy more freezers,” he says. “We anticipate this service will grow rapidly.”
Nielsen says shopping centers of the future will combine online and offline services. “We truly believe we have to meet consumers where they want to shop, because they can shop anywhere today with mobile devices. We want to provide the infrastructure and opportunity to make that happen, and we believe consumers will vote with their money.”
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