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BJ’s Wholesale Club becomes latest big-box retailer to adopt mobile ordering

Warehouse club chain BJ’s Wholesale Club is implementing online ordering for deli and bakery orders on a section of its mobile-optimized Web site, just in time for holiday celebrations.

The penetration of mobile ordering has been especially slow for large, big-box retailers such as BJ’s and rival Walmart, mostly due to matters of scale. However, by only dedicating mobile ordering to one (relatively small) section of its retail offering, during a rather intensive holiday time frame for its wares, BJ’s could run an effective test pilot for learning how to scale the operation to other components of its store.

“This will most likely stay within the Deli or Bakery sections, as deli platters are only available in clubs with a full-service deli, and cakes are only available in Clubs with a Fresh Bakery,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis. “This particular perishable product is a unique business, requiring the equipment to make and store these goods, and it appears that BJ’s is fully implementing this service where applicable.

“Mobile simply adds convenience to the shopping equation.”

Mobile ordering
Members can place orders online for convenient in-club pickup in as little as 36 hours, choosing from a wide selection of top-quality party platters and customizable cakes.

The selection on BJ’s online ordering service includes Wellsley Farms and Dietz & Watson entertainment platters and sandwich rings, three-foot subs, Wellsley Farms mini croissant sandwich platter and an Italian meat and cheese platter. Online bakery ordering includes Wellsley Farms sheet cakes, two-tier cakes and cupcakes.

The availability of online ordering comes during a season where the stresses of holiday shopping place time constraints on many consumers, and during a year when mobile solutions to many of the seasons stresses have been in vogue. Besides the obvious maneuver in integrating mobile ordering solutions through online and mobile-optimized channels in the way BJ’s Wholesale is doing, many retailers have been rolling out apps dedicated largely to mobile ordering.

And while BJ’s has implemented a pickup service, which cuts out most of the wait time associated with bricks-and-mortar shopping, many big-box retailers overseas in places like China—which has had extremely high mobile uptake—have taken mobile integration a step further.

Retail behemoth Walmart recently invested $50 million into local Chinese logistics and grocery delivery platform New Dada in a move that will proliferate the company’s reach overseas and help corner mobile delivery (see story). While BJ’s ambitions for mobile aren’t quite as sweeping, it is still yet to be seen if a large retailer can find a tenable system for large-scale retail delivery.

The chain recently rolled out significant upgrades to its mobile and desktop sites, such as easier membership signup options and improved navigation capabilities, to enhance its omnichannel experience and provide a more cohesive experience across both bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce experiences (see story).

“As we see in the case of Amazon, this is resonating with US customers,” Ms. Troutman said. “Also, many big boxes (Home Depot for example) are doing quite well with the growth of offsite ordering and delivery (mobile
being one of the key conversion points).

“Remember that mobile is part of the customer journey and cannot be looked at as simply a stand-alone device for online ordering. China has some unique characteristics that bias these numbers.”