Post-pandemic, grocery logistics will never be the same. Sean Coakley, chief commercial officer with Capstone Logistics, discusses the permanent changes that COVID-19 brought about in consumer shopping behavior, and how logistics providers are responding.
The grocery industry had to deal with a huge surge in orders for home delivery during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the crisis abates, so has the volume of such activity, giving grocery retailers some breathing room as they figure out how best to address the e-commerce sector.
COVID caused many shoppers who would never have considered online ordering and home delivery prior to the lockdown to embrace that option. Now, while home delivery isn’t as significant a factor as it was back then, it’s still growing, albeit at a steadier rate, Coakley says.
What’s changing now is the nature of the demand by consumers for delivery. During the pandemic, they were asking for near-immediate delivery, often under an hour. But such demands are now starting to taper off, as consumers gain a better idea of the cost of such service, and its impact on the environment. “Grocery is still being brought to the home,” Coakley says, “but in more standard and regimented methods.”
Home delivery of groceries didn’t get much traction during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The difference today, Coakley says, is the availability of automation technology that makes the service more cost-efficient. In addition, retailers are employing “dark” stores and even micro-fulfillment centers within operating stores to optimize inventory and avoid the need for large and expensive distribution centers.
Grocery retailers are also reconsidering whether to rely on crowd-sourced delivery, which seemed like a good idea during the early days of the pandemic, but ended up severing their direct relationship with the customer. Instead, they’re seeking ways to deliver efficiently while providing the same level of service.
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