Fulfillment Takes A Front Seat

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that online shopping—for anything and everything—is having a major impact on the way we live and the communities we live in. Its effect can be seen in the daily struggles of brick and mortar retailers and the proliferation of delivery trucks in your neighborhood.

Convenience is the primary driver of this trend and e-commerce merchants as well as brick and mortar retailers understand that they need to step up their game and make their shopping experience as convenient as possible. To do that, many are looking at the fulfillment portion of the transaction as a place to stake a flag.

Amazon has been a leader in thinking about fulfillment and delivery. Their talk of using drones for deliveries got a lot of attention. But their recent purchase of grocer Whole Foods is a practical way to address fulfillment and immediately get a bigger toehold in the grocery category. With Whole Foods’ 460 locations, Amazon now has 460 additional fulfillment locations for its Amazon Fresh and Prime Pantry customers. Grocery insiders predict that Amazon will locate lockers or pods in the back of Whole Foods stores. Amazon customers will then be able to order online, come in, pick up their order and cross-shop the store for other items. We’ll learn soon if this is in the cards.

Traditional grocers are already finding ways to compete at the grocery game. Weis Markets, a mid-Atlantic grocer and Metro client, offers Weis 2 Go at select locations. Shoppers choose products online and pick up their groceries at the store. Weis 2 Go locations feature dedicated parking spaces for 2 Go shoppers; shoppers pull into a 2 Go spot, push a red call button and the grocery order is delivered directly to their car.

Of course even Amazon knows there’s a place for brick and mortar. Its Amazon stores, with central locations and hours that fit almost everyone’s schedules, are a safe place to pick up and return Amazon orders. Ironically, Amazon stores are reminiscent of the old Sears model when customers would order from a catalog and pick up their order at the store.

This new spin on fulfillment for online shopping is just a new iteration of the drive-thru windows popular at McDonalds, banks, dry cleaners and Starbucks.  Retailers of all stripes are responding to what customers want—faster and more convenient delivery options. And they’re finding cost-efficient and creative ways to do so.

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