BARRINGTON, Ill.—Throughout the pandemic, grocery stores and food retailers such as convenience stores have continued to expand their curbside and delivery options, aided by new technology designed to streamline the process, Grocery Dive reports. Kroger, Amazon, Target, Alberstsons, Aldi and Walmart are among the grocery retailers constantly updating their delivery and pickup systems.
“I think the big shift has gone from the fact that, ‘Do we need click-and-collect?’ to the actual question, ‘Oh, I really need click-and-collect, but what kind of solution?’” said Edith Väli, marketing manager for Cleveron.
Common challenges to overcome are shortening wait times, keeping hot/cold items at correct temperatures, and inventory management. Many grocery stores have solved the first problem by having dedicated pickup-only spots, with some grocers like Albertsons adding pickup lockers. Walmart partnered with Cleveron on in-store pickup towers.
“You can put these units anywhere you like—next to the office buildings, in rural areas where you don't have a store so you basically kind of expand your business by just putting in one unit,” Väli said.
While many grocers have tapped third party companies to handle online order fulfillment and delivery, some are bringing that in-house. Others have brought in technology that provides employees with when and how to pick products, for example. However, experts caution against having too much technology. “It can get confusing if it’s not done right. The best strategy is to have it [the technology] seamlessly integrated,” said Mike Demko, the founder and CEO of Locai Solutions. “Time is your enemy. If you can minimize the travel time for a particular person filling those orders, you can maximize productivity for those people as well.”