Tanger Factory Outlet Centers on Wednesday introduced a virtual shopping concierge service that allows consumers to shop remotely across various retailers and brands, the company announced in a press release.
To use the service, customers explain their preferences, favorite brands and items they're seeking using an online form. Then, a personal shopper will select the items in-store at the outlet on their behalf and customers can have their items delivered or pick them up curbside, the company said.
Customers can virtually access the company's more than 2,800 stores across the U.S. and Canada, not just the outlet that's closest to them. Tanger Outlets have reopened in compliance with local, state and CDC regulations, but the company also introduced locations around each shopping center where customers can pick up items from multiple retailers.
Malls have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially making it difficult for already struggling shopping centers to recover in the long term. With its virtual shopping feature, Tanger Outlets joins other retailers in trying to connect with consumers remotely.
"Given the ever-changing landscape related to the COVID-19 pandemic, constant innovation is more critical than ever before when it comes to serving retailers and customers," Tanger Outlets CEO, Steven Tanger, said in a statement. "The Virtual Shopper program is part of the solution and one of our new initiatives to support the e-commerce and omnichannel ecosystem."
Combining technology with a personal shopping experience was also a feature that Walmart experimented with through Jet Black. In 2018 the retailer launched its high-end concierge service geared toward shoppers in urban areas. The service evolved to offer curated recommendations, courier delivery, pick-up for returns and free gift-wrapping, among other things. However, the retail giant discontinued Jet Black this past February.
Other retailers and brands, including Suitsupply, David’s Bridal, Jared and Lowe’s, have rolled out their own virtual initiatives. In March, Streetify allowed retailers to set up virtual storefronts on its platform.
Its competitors also have had to balance safety with commerce. Back in March, Taubman temporarily closed 19 of its shopping centers. Simon Property Group, which had been in merger talks with Taubman, has reopened its 60 locations with occupation limits and plans to open more.