The consumer market has irreversibly shifted to an e-commerce focus, but more nimble and agile retailers are creating new-style businesses to fill the bricks-and-mortar vacuum – says SnapFulfil CEO, Tony Dobson.
‘Dark stores’ are essentially retail outlets– including grocery stores, clothing brands and home goods retailers–that have been converted to local fulfilment centres and warehouses for rapid deployment of goods to fulfil delivery and as collection points for orders.
The origins of dark stores actually date back to pre-pandemic times and the micro-warehousing idea of putting fulfilment centres in densely populated areas to shorten delivery times and provide a faster and more expedient shopping experience – but the need and demand for such convenience has massively grown since March 2020.
They’re no doubt here to stay as well, because even after the pandemic has subsided, shoppers who have got used to home delivery, curb-side pickup and online retailing will continue with at least some of those purchasing habits in their new normal lives.
Many stores may still limit the number of customers inside at a time and/or practice some form of on/off social distancing measures, so dark stores help ease all of those transitions while still looking out for customer concerns and job security.
As full-time dark stores become a new way of doing business however, simply expanding the current delivery and pick-up options isn’t enough. To truly be effective, brands need to think through their entire dark store strategy and automate wherever possible.
Streamlining processes and digitalising order fulfilment will help lessen the strain of permanent dark stores–and this is where technologically advanced WMS comes in. It can quickly and cost effectively be rolled out across multiple sites, with no large capital outlay investment up front or costly infrastructure changes, helping businesses achieve their profitable growth targets quickly and efficiently.
An industry leading cloud-based WMS system, such as SnapFulfil, has flexibility built in and can meet the ever changing needs of the modern e-commerce market without being time consuming (it can be up and running – even remotely – in just 30 days) or difficult to reconfigure.
It is not only agile and scalable, it also has the capacity to adapt and evolve with customer service innovations – like dark stores – that the top-tier of retailers are repeatedly introducing. Moreover, its true power lies in the real-time data trail that is gathered to create a single purchaser profile, which means understanding each customer’s buying journey from start to end and beyond.
Crucial if you’re going to adopt a micro-warehousing or dark store strategy around easier access to essential items.