There are many Mass Market Retailer stores which have been investing for the past years on an omnichannel strategy aimed at linking digital and physical worlds in stores, in order to meet their customers’ increasingly high expectations. Examples like Esselunga, Coop, Pam, Unicomm (Famila, Emisfero, Cash&Carry, etc.), Iper, just to mention a few of them, have opened their own e-commerce channels featuring various service typologies, from Click&Collect, allowing us to comfortably purchase at home and collect goods at a store of our choice, receive them directly at home or in a dedicated parking-lot area under the “driver all home delivery” formula, that is, shopping online and receiving goods directly at home.
But what happens in the meantime, from the moment we place our order and the collection/reception of the goods? Mass Market Retailer companies are organised in various ways:
- there are those who entrust order management to some store employees, who get the product directly from the shop racks, the same people we find in the store when shopping there. As you can imagine, it is difficult in this case to have a real.time correct stock count: this is why, when we shop online, we are often asked to choose an alternative product
- there are those who use dark stores, that is to say, structures similar to supermarkets in layout, but which are not open to the public since they are exclusively used for managing e-commerce orders. In dark stores, the only ones who can collect products from the racks are the so-called “runners”: it is therefore much simpler to keep stock under control
That of dark stores seems to be an increasing worldwide trend: Whole Foods Market, American biofood champion, and Amazon are further expanding the dark store concept by opening stores, often temporary ones, specifically planned for delivery.
What we have all realized, above all during the Covid-19 emergency, is that it is of the utmost importance to be able to offer not only a performing, clear and simple e-commerce platform, but also an efficient logistic organization.
Nowadays solutions can be diverse, but anyway complementary:
- integration between e-commerce and retail management apps, allowing a runner/store employee to collect, directly from their mobile device and in front of the store racks, the products the customers have requested online, following the Click&Collect logics. In this way, thanks to a complete management of incoming or outgoing goods, it is possible to guarantee punctual stock management.
- adoption, in dark stores, of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) able to:
- optimize provisions, spaces and collection procedures
- guarantee product traceability
- increase operators’ efficiency and productivity no matter what their work experience is, simplifying work, constantly monitoring operations development and managing peak-activity moments in a simple and responsive way
- make the best use of spaces in order to have most demanded products available, prevent obsolescence and programme restocking in a more functional way
- voice picking systems allowing parallel management of tens of orders, by maximizing times needed and order taking-in-charge