Rakuten acquires mobile pickup platform Curbside
Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten agreed to acquire Curbside, a shopping startup that works with brick-and-mortar retailers to provide their customers with mobile ordering for pickup outside a store, per a blog post from Curbside.
Curbside said in the blog post that it will operate as an independent company, with its team, services, partners and product offerings remaining intact.
The two companies are joining forces because they share "a common vision around connecting consumers to easy, convenient mobile commerce at stores in the communities where they work and live," according to the blog post. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Curbside is being acquired at a time that mobile ordering and pick up are gaining steam, meaning the company faces more competition than it did several years ago. Having a big corporate parent like Rakuten is likely to provide Curbside with an opportunity to work with a wider group of retailers worldwide. At the same time, the deal suggests that, as mobile ordering and pickup become more popular, the supporting technology is becoming a must-have for digital retail platforms like Rakuten while underscoring the importance of location data for digital marketing services.
Rakuten's buyout of Curbside is the company’s 36th acquisition since 2007 and its first since 2016, per Pitchbook. Among the 35 takeovers, 13 were e-commerce providers. Curbside likely will help Rakuten offer curbside pickup to customers, especially after the Japanese e-commerce giant began a partnership with Walmart to provide online grocery ordering in Japan, per TechCrunch. Rakuten also has a payment platform that can complement Curbside’s service as the company seeks to expand its customer base.
Curbside, which was founded in 2013, was a pioneer in the development of mobile technologies that could help brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants provide an additional way to compete with e-commerce companies and food delivery services. The idea was to provide more immediate service to on-the-go customers who wanted to pick up products without having to get out of their cars, perhaps while on the way home from work.
Target tested Curbside several years ago at several locations but decided to start its own curbside pickup program called Drive Up. Target’s test preceded an investment in Curbside from CVS. A large retailer like Target has the financial resources to develop its own mobile technologies, but smaller companies that don’t have a budget for mobile app development and sophisticated technologies that track customers are good candidates to use Curbside’s service. CVS, Sephora, Chipotle, Nordstrom and Pizza Hut all use Curbside’s Arrive platform, enabling them to predict when a mobile customer will reach a store for curbside pickup, per the company’s website.