As more customers are shopping online, Walmart Canada is putting its foot on the gas pedal. In a recent blog post, the company announced it’s accelerating its e-commerce expansion with a number of moves.
The big news is the retailer is building its first fully automated fulfillment centre in Scarborough, Ont. The 22,000-sq.-ft. space will automate online grocery picking and dispensing with picking speeds up to six times faster than manual store picking, according to the company.
It will also feature automated kiosks that serve as vending machines for online grocery orders and can serve up to five customers at a time. Customers drive up to a dedicated parking spot, enter a code and their items will appear in less than two minutes. The new space, a partnership with intelligent automation provider Dematic, will open later this year.
Automation is an emerging trend in the e-commerce space, as retailers look to save on time and labour costs. Walmart’s automated kiosks are a first for a major grocery retailer in Canada, and the concept is being trialled by other retailers globally.
French grocer Carrefour, for example, is piloting a fully automated pickup point in Paris. In the “pedestrian drive” concept, customers scan a QR code when they arrive. An automatic device brings their order from the storage area to a hatch for the customer to collect. The concept was developed in partnership with Polish company Retail Robotics.
In addition to its automated fulfillment centre, Walmart Canada is expanding its grocery pickup service to more than 60 stores this year, which means 85% of its stores will offer the service, and is expanding its grocery delivery to more communities. It’s also piloting ring scanner technology, allowing employees to pick and scan items faster by working hands-free.
The acceleration is part of Walmart Canada’s $3.5 billion investment over the next five years.
In the blog post, Walmart Canada president and CEO Horacio Barbeito said: “We are on a journey to be the number one e-commerce retailer in Canada. Our customers want choice of service and we see the demand for online shopping continuing. We are ramping up our e-commerce offering with a focus on speed, accuracy and service.”