Consumers’ desire for greater convenience is driving significant growth in online shopping, and their busy schedules are creating the need for flexible fulfillment options. Consumers not only want to shop and buy whenever and wherever; they also want the same flexibility and frictionless experience for receiving their merchandise.
According to a recent article by CNN Business, “Walmart and Nordstrom are building physical stores that don’t actually sell anything. The two retailers are creating small hubs in big cities and dense suburban areas for shoppers to retrieve their online grocery and clothing orders. These new locations give them access to shoppers who want their stuff in a hurry without schlepping out to regular big-box stores or waiting around for home delivery.”
The Nordstrom Local hubs (three in Los Angeles and two to open in New York City in September) are small footprint stores with no inventory that are dedicated locations for customers to pick up online orders, return merchandise or use alterations and tailoring services.
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Walmart recently opened Walmart Pickup Point, a 40,000 square-foot prototype store outside of Chicago, to offer its customers another option for online order pickups and deliveries. Unlike the Nordstrom Local concept and traditional Walmart Supercenters, customers are not allowed to enter the Walmart Pickup Point location. They simply drive to a designated parking spot and a Walmart associate loads their trunk with their order.
The Walmart Pickup Point is an example of a micro-fulfillment center, also known as dark stores, which several retailers are testing to increase the efficiency and profitability of fulfilling online orders.
Many other retailers are testing micro-fulfillment centers as a more efficient and profitable way to fulfill online orders for both customer pick-up and delivery. Are you considering micro-fulfillment centers?