I recently attended the National Grocers Association (NGA) tradeshow and conference in Las Vegas. Notable for me were two conference sessions on e-commerce.
Micro Fulfillment Centers (MFC’s)
The first covered micro fulfillment centers (MFC’s) – small, largely automated vertical warehouses, provided by AutoStore. These MFC’s pick and pack online grocery orders for online shoppers. Whether for click-and-collect, or delivery. 6 times faster than having a store employee pick those orders from the store aisles, the MFC’s can be attached to a grocery retailer, in back of or next to the store. Or can be their own ‘dark store,’ placed in a lower rent industrial warehouse area.
Auto Replenishment of Consumer Staples
The second notable concept was Replenium. Founder and CEO Tom Furphy, formerly with Wegmans and then Amazon, explained how Replenium’s auto replenishment is ‘The application of machine learning and intuitive management tools to automate the shopping tasks of routine purchases.’
It is the world’s first ‘open auto-replenishment platform’. It allows independent grocery retailers to offer their shoppers online auto replenishment, just like Amazon.
Repeat purchases of household products such as paper towels, detergent, toothpaste, pet foods are suggested by Replenium’s AI and moved over to a regular replenishment shipment from the local grocer. Any local retailer that stocks these products can now offer regular auto shipments, driving sales volume and stickiness. And retaining these purchases locally, preventing consumers from switching their, say, dog food and paper towel orders to Amazon or Walmart. Because 25% of Consumer-Packaged Goods sales are predicted to move online by 2024, this is a significant service; keeping those sales local.
Both AutoStore and Replenium are examples of services that can allow smaller independent retailers act like the online giants. Offering their increasingly omnichannel customers a competitive offering; in simplicity, speed, and convenience.