With grocery’s click and collect, or “order-ahead and pickup,” phenomenon now in full swing, grocery operators are striving to perfect digital fulfillment platforms that fit seamlessly into their supply chain and physical stores.
This is not easy to do. With the rare exception, the design and layout of existing stores are based on a model that is decades old. When orders are assembled from items on the shelves, it may be disruptive to several core aspects of store operations in two key areas: labor and space. Here’s how:
Labor. In-store fulfillment requires additional hands—employees who dedicate all or part of their time to the task, working smoothly around shoppers and other employees. Since order timing is unpredictable, they must receive notifications on when to start in a timely fashion.
Space. Orders fulfilled in-store must be held in a designated area, with temperature control, until they are collected by shoppers or sent out for delivery. Holding time can be less than an hour or as long as all day. The allocated holding area must be carved from either the floor or backroom and be large enough to accommodate peak order surges.
These present many new challenges for most retailers. Both depend on timeliness, technology and information flow. Super-efficient order-ahead fulfillment can be accomplished by applying four principles:
- Pick orders on time, but just in time. When digital orders are received at the store, they should be queued based on their expected customer pickup time. Allow some buffer in this calculation, but don’t let completed orders sit so long that spoilage may occur. Shelf-stable items can be assembled earlier and held safely. Prepared food items, in particular, should be picked much closer to pickup time, similar to how a restaurant might prepare for carryout orders. That means a single customer’s order may actually have several time frames for fulfillment.
- Put information in associates’ hands. Accuracy is paramount when assembling grocery orders with a dozen or more items from several departments. If optimal timing varies for shelf-stable, chilled, frozen and prepared items, associates need a reliable technology platform to guide their activities. Many retailers provide their order fulfillment associates with some kind of mobile device for this purpose.
- Keep the staging area compact. Retailers are discovering that holding areas may not fit so naturally within traditional store layouts. Should the holding area be in a back room or up front? How much space should it take up? How will shoppers access it? Predictable surges – such as the volume of the after-work rush – will determine the minimum required area. A smaller staging area may fit more easily into a space close to the store entrance, which can save steps at the moment of pickup. That’s why just-in-time fulfillment is a good idea. The shorter the holding times, the less space needed. To succeed, what grocers really need to know is when will the customer arrive?
- Monitor customer arrival time. The other end of the holding time issue happens at pickup. It’s a best practice to have orders ready to hand over or load into customer vehicles within moments of their arrival at the store. Predictive arrival technology can enable the store to receive alerts so they can anticipate and take action – like grabbing that fresh-roasted chicken from the deli and uniting it with the rest of the order. No customer wants cold chicken.
Technology, like ARRIVE from Rakuten Ready, is a key to success, allowing retailers to adhere to the four principles above, seamlessly execute a click and collect program and provide the best possible customer experience.
In the mobile world of retail, this last moment of truth can be either a shopper’s best moment or the last time they visit. Store operators don’t have to meet the challenges alone. Rakuten Ready, the leader in order-ahead technology, can help. They have proven business-ready solutions that can save customers time, offer a great brand experience and provide a simplified pickup experience during the last mile. A win for everybody. Visit RakutenReady.com to learn more.
This post is sponsored by Rakuten Ready