Overhead Conveyors Making the Connection for the Latest Trend in Retail
If you’ve visited a Walmart grocery store recently, you might have been surprised to see employees doing their shopping. But they’re not actually shopping for themselves, they’re shopping for people like you who have ordered their groceries online.
In the Walmart case, online orders that come in the night before are filled the next morning and are ready for pickup by that afternoon.
It’s just about as close as we get in North America to a recent trend in grocery retail that’s growing rapidly in China. Called hybrid shopping, or O2O, (online-to-offline), it generally follows the Walmart example, except instead of waiting until the next day, some shopping orders are filled within three minutes.
What’s Behind the Speed of Ordering?
One of the main differences between the set-up at the Hema Xiansheng outlets in Shanghai is the use of an overhead conveyor system. Known for their fresh food, speed is crucial in fulfilling orders. If you visited a Hema store, you’d see employees rushing around the store with mobile devices, using them to fill just placed online orders. As they fill a shopping bag, they put it on a hanger and touch a button, which send the bag up towards the ceiling where it’s picked up by an overhead conveyor system.
You could visit the store, pick out what you want to buy, order it online and pick it up before you leave – now you know where it got the name hybrid shopping! Regardless of how you shop, everything is paid for online, which eliminates time spent in checkout lines.
As an added bonus, if you live within 3 kms of the store, you can have your orders delivered. Put it all together, and you can place an order online and have it delivered with 30 minutes.
And all in part because of an overhead conveyor!