Supermarkets balance automation with human touch to deliver on fresh

The pandemic has radically changed the way customers shop for grocery products. People have been forced to embrace online shopping to alleviate safety concerns, lack of inventory and avoid long queues. As a result, the online grocery industry doubled its market share in December 2020 to 12.5%, up from 6.7% the year before (Mintel, 2020).

Whilst customers are substituting in-store shopping for ecommerce, the insight is that they don’t want to compromise on the freshest and best products available, delivered in the shortest amount of time. Supermarkets are evolving the shape of store locally to respond to online orders with automated fulfilment centres to improve speed and efficiency, combined with personal shoppers who can select and ensure expert quality control.

Walmart plans to add local fulfilment centres to select US stores. Robots will be used to retrieve small products for assembly, but personal shoppers will handpick fresh items from the shop floor. This aims to reduce the likelihood of product damages and to ensure the best produce is picked. 

Sainsbury’s is partnering with rapid delivery startup HyperLocal, aiming to deliver grocery items in 20 minutes. Customers must purchase items through the HyperLocal website for a personal shopper at the store to handpick and pack orders for collection. The service is currently only available at Sainsbury’s store in Cockermouth, Cumbria, UK.



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Image courtesy of  Walmart

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