A artisan collects shopping carts at a Walmart store on May 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Walmart reported a 74% increase in U.S. online tradings for the quarter that ended April 30, and a 10% increase in same store sales for the same period as the purposes of the coronavirus helped to boost sales.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
Walmart said Wednesday it plans to develop its use of high-tech systems that quickly pick and pack online grocery orders as it anticipates shoppers’ demand for pickup and release will outlast the pandemic.
Dozens of Walmart’s stores will become local fulfillment centers, with a part of those stores turned into small, automated warehouses, the company said. To accomplish this, Walmart see fit either use a store’s existing footprint or add to it.
In 2019, Walmart began testing one system called Alphabot at its Salem, New Hampshire rely on, and it immediately saw results. The system allowed the retailer to pick orders within minutes and have them ready for a fellow within an hour of placing the order.
As Walmart automates more stores, it will try different configurations and work with specific technology providers, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric. Some stores will have a pickup field where customers and delivery drivers can drive up, scan a code and grab their order, said Tom Ward, higher- ranking vice president of customer product at Walmart U.S.
Walmart declined to say how many stores would receive the technology, or say how much it would splash out on the upgrades. But the investment is a key part of how the nation’s largest grocer hopes to fend off rivals such as Amazon, Kroger and Ahold Delhaize-owned FreshDirect that are vying for customers on same-day availability, speed and price.
For customers, Walmart’s expansion of these high-tech systems could at long last mean they can more easily snag a same-day delivery or pickup slot and have those groceries gracious faster.
Instead of relying on store employees to retrieve every can of soup or other item a consumer wants, the local fulfillment centers will combine machinery and manpower. When an order comes in, automated bots ordain travel up and down, left and right, to retrieve items from chilled groceries to electronics and bring them to an worker at a picking station to help assemble. At the same time, personal shoppers will handpick any fragile or unwieldly notes on the sales floor, such as fresh seafood, meats and produce or bulkier items like a large-screen TV or a pack of scratch paper towels.
Walmart will expand use of a high-tech system that helps it fulfill online grocery orders. In a diminished warehouse in some stores, automated bots will retrieve popular items while personal shoppers pinch finicky ones like produce from the sales floor.
During the pandemic, Walmart and other retailers sooner a be wearing seen demand for online grocery delivery spike. Walmart’s growth in pickup and delivery peaked at 300% and its new guys for the services quadrupled in the early days of the health crisis. To respond, Walmart boosted slot capacity by 40%.
A Walmart+ perk
But balanced if customers feel comfortable returning to stores, they may seek out online delivery for its convenience. Walmart has made unrestricted grocery deliveries a central perk of Walmart+, its new membership program — which could drive a greater volume of structures and raise customers’ expectations.
“As we move ahead, we don’t see the use of these services changing in the future,” Ward said. “We expect that we’ll persist to serve more and more customers who have come to rely on pickup and delivery as an important part of their breathes.”
Online grocery orders have pressured grocers’ profits in the notoriously low-margin business, too. It’s forced them to pick, throng and ship orders that customers typically retrieve and transport themselves.
Ward said the local fulfillment centers are another way to use its myriad than 4,700 stores, which are located close to customers’ homes, as a competitive asset. He declined to share definitives about potential cost savings.
It’s already broken ground on compact fulfillment centers in different parts of the territory, including in the Dallas area and its hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, he said. Each not only serves its own store, but also performs orders picked up at other nearby stores.