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The Future of Grocery Stores: Micro-Fulfillment Centers for Online Orders

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Grocery store as micro fulfillment center

Even though much of our daily lives has returned to “normal” since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been some lasting changes. One such area is the way we shop for groceries—whether we order online and have our groceries delivered or pick them up curbside—and grocery stores have invested heavily in supporting the changing needs of their customers. However, this accommodation has created a new challenge for store executives in managing order logistics, with many grocery operators now contemplating micro-fulfillment centers within their existing locations.

Micro-fulfillment centers are small warehouses designed to fulfill online orders quickly and efficiently. By utilizing part of an existing store to house this activity, grocery stores can save on the costs associated with building or renting separate – and typically much larger -- warehouses. Equally important, operating the warehouse on-site readily improves speed, efficiency, and accuracy in order fulfillment, leading to a better overall customer experience.

Here are three areas of the business to consider before adding a micro-fulfillment center:

  • Employee training. The logistical implementation is one piece of adding micro-fulfillment centers, but getting employees adequately trained is just as critical to ensure success. There will be new processes and procedures for picking orders and managing inventory levels that must be effectively communicated to employees at all levels. Employee-facing digital signage can help front-line workers stay up to date on the latest changes to order fulfillment, logistics, delivery schedules and more.
  • Network capabilities. Review your existing network to ensure it can support the additional traffic generated by micro-fulfillment centers. Your store might need to upgrade in-store Wi-Fi  networks or add dedicated Guest Wi-Fi channels to enable employees and shoppers to efficiently fulfill orders.
  • Security protocols. You’ll want to factor in enhanced security protocols to protect your business and may even consider a Private 5G solution to ensure a secure network within your location.   

In today’s rapidly changing retail landscape, grocery stores must find ways to remain competitive and stay top of mind for consumers presented with a multitude of shopping options. Adding micro-fulfillment centers within existing grocery store locations can provide a cost-effective solution to managing online orders and curbside pickup, while also improving inventory turns and enhancing the customer experience. A successful implementation will rely on effective communication and training as well as the right investment in network infrastructure and technology solutions. Go here to learn more about Hughes Managed Network Services for grocery stores.