TECHNOLOGY

Ahold Delhaize USA jumps into the robotic picking game

BY CSA Staff

Supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize has found a way to get online orders to its North American customers more efficiently.

Ahold Delhaize USA will roll out small, automated “robot supermarkets” to speed order picking and cut delivery times, according to Reuters.

Ahold Delhaize USA, which operates Stop & Shop, Food Lion, Giant, Hannaford, Giant/Martin’s and Peapod, as well as Retail Business Services (RBS), will automate order collection through mini automated warehouses attached to the stores of its U.S. chains, the report explained.

The new strategy marks a departure from traditionally relying on manual labor at bigger warehouses, as well as a mixture of man and machine, to meet online food orders, Reuters said.

The company is working with start-up Takeoff Technologies, which is also working with Albertsons Cos. on a similar project.

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TECHNOLOGY

Global apparel giant expands its reach in a big way

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Zara is making its way into more than 100 countries — at least, online.

The fast-fashion retailer owned by Inditex on Thursday will launch a new dedicated worldwide online platform, technology that will enable the company to bring its fashions to customers in 106 new markets. Most of these new markets are in Africa, and will include customers in Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Ghana, among others. The online store is also making its debut in numerous parts of the Caribbean and Asia.

The platform will introduce new items from its women’s, men’s and kids’ collections twice a week, and feature a simple, intuitive browsing experience that is configured for all devices. Merchandise will be organized by curated collections, as well as “stories” which take shoppers on a visual tour of capsule collections and trends — two features that enable users to shop entire looks.

The site will also be available in English and French, and will be supported by dedicated customer service available in both languages.

The site will accept widely used online payment methods, such as PayPal and major credit cards. Orders will be processed in euros, grossed up by the corresponding delivery and customs charges, and fulfilled from Zara’s online platform in Spain. Customers will receive orders within three to seven days, according to the company.

This is Zara’s latest move to step up its digital experience. For example, Zara plans to use its vast network of approximately 2,000 stores in 48 countries to ship online purchases. The chain expects to have all stores shipping merchandise to customers around the world, including in the United States, by year’s end, according to The Wall Street Journal.

One store that already supports this service is the company’s newly transformed flagship at Westfield Stratford mall in London. The two-story, 48,000-sq.-ft. store features digital technology that integrates the online and offline shopping experiences, with solutions including automated order collection points, self-checkout, interactive mirrors and mobile payment systems.

The store also features a dedicated section for the purchase and collection of online orders. This section has two automated online order collection points, serviced by a concealed area able to handle 2,400 orders simultaneously, enabling shoppers to collect purchases made through Zara’s e-commerce platforms.

The store also features interactive mirrors equipped with RFID readers. The readers detect the garment a customer is holding, enabling customers to see what a complete outfit will look like in the mirror.

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These innovations are driving retail growth

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A retail transformation is well underway, and it is being lead by retailers’ investments in technologies that improve the customer experience.

This was according to Ramping Up Retail Innovation,” a study from Retail Systems Research (RSR). The data revealed that retail winners believe customer-facing innovations are very important (93%), followed very closely (88%) by the value of automating operational processes will create the efficiencies needed in order to fund those customer innovations.

Similarly, both retail leaders and laggards agree on the importance of improving the customer experience (CX) — and using innovation to do so. For example, 71% of leaders are committed to providing a better customer experience, compared to 68% of all other retailers. Sixty-eight percent of leaders also believe they can use innovations to build lasting loyalty with our customers, and move them to become “advocates.” Only 47% of other retailers agree on the value of this option.

When considering the technologies that can achieve these goals, retailer are not looking for “shiny, new solutions.” Rather, they are opting for core solutions that will help then scale and grow their business in the long-term. For example, 93% of retail winners and 66% of other retailers are adopting cloud computing solutions to drive innovation.

While 71% of winners are implementing new core systems, only 40% of other retailer are following suit. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a priority for 68% of retail winners, but only 40% of all other retailers agree. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning also tops 63% of winners’ innovation lists, followed by 32% of all other retailers. And new user interfaces, such as voice recognition, are priorities for 61% of leading companies, but only 40% of other retailers.

Innovations including customer-facing robots still have a way to go as only half (56%) of leading companies call these priorities. They are only on the radar of 28% of other retailers. Despite the industry’s increasing interest in augmented and virtual reality, only 56% of leading retailers are adopting these solutions, followed by 23% of all other companies.

“When it comes to experimenting with new technologies, respondents indicate that what they are experimenting with aren’t necessarily the technologies that they assign the greatest value to,” the study revealed.

Retailers of all types may not be afraid to experiment, “but across the boards, they aren’t committing ‘real money’ to a full rollout,” the study added. “This could indicate that either it’s still early days for these technologies, or that retailers are succumbing to a traditional over- abundance of caution.”

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