We know that the pandemic has changed the purchasing habits of Poles - retail has been redirected to the Internet to a large extent and self-service is developing. How does it look from the perspective of a company dealing with the automation of sales processes?
Yes, it is true that under the influence of the pandemic, Poles have changed their shopping habits and are more willing to use e-commerce channels. Initially, it was dictated by security reasons, but at the moment it can be safely said that this form is simply convenient and will stay with us for a longer time. The changes concern not only the place where we buy, but also the form. Self-service enters the next level and is more and more often found in new branches of retail and services. Not only self-service checkouts are a desirable solution now.
Together with the SW Research agency, we have carried out a study which shows that 80 percent. Poles who buy online use parcel machines as their preferred form of delivering online orders. The key factor is convenience - 69 percent of the respondents declared that they do not have to wait at a specific place and time to collect the parcel. This shows the scale of changes in consumer expectations that retail chains have to meet. For us, it is a very big opportunity and a field for exploitation, where we can implement interesting solutions and work on new prototypes, which is always a great satisfaction for us (laughs).
You mentioned the new branches of retail and services that self-service is entering - what exactly are these areas.
They concern for example the area of purchasing the so-called "fresh" food products, but also the DIY sector. Undoubtedly, our greatest commercial success recently was the implementation of 73 pieces of Szybkomat24h - parcel lockers designed for the Leroy Merlin DIY hypermarket chain. At the moment, our devices can be found in all Leroy Merlin stores in Poland. We have designed them in such a way that they are adapted to the receipt of orders typical for DIY stores, taking into account the space for oversized orders. We are currently producing other Big Size lockers for the furniture chain, and we will soon be proud to announce this cooperation.
We also plan expansion to other countries. A great market for the development of technologies that automate retail and fit in with the smart city philosophy is the Persian Gulf region, which is struggling with the challenges of infrastructure and supply chain. We recently visited EXPO Dubai and the Polish-Arab Economic Forum in Dubai. The meetings that we had during both events resulted in the signing of the first contract. In June, we would like to conduct the first tests of our e-commerce machine in this area.
So, what does it look like in the grocery segment. Is there really a potential for the development of parcel machines?
Of course! In the study I have already mentioned, we also checked the attitude of Poles to this form of receiving groceries. It is worth noting that we are also talking about the sensitive supply of fresh products that require maintaining a certain temperature, such as vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat and fish. Despite the fact that the majority of consumers do not have experience with this form of delivery yet, their attitude is very optimistic – even now nearly 50 percent of respondents are willing to use this form of shopping. This allows us to confidently forecast development in this area.
In 2021, we implemented the Coolockers project, a new, innovative version of the parcel machine, which is dedicated to the grocery industry. Equipped with modules that allow to store products at specific temperatures, including freezing and a cooling ones. The premiere of the device took place during the Congress of Modern Distribution, which took place in Warsaw in November 2021. At the moment, the finished prototype is undergoing the last tests under extreme conditions, and we are ready for the first implementation.
So how do you forecast further development of this market?
As a consumer, I would like to pick up my purchases with fresh products from a vending machine. This will be understood by everyone who, like me, comes home late in the evening after work or training and has no desire to go to the store, look for a parking space and so on. It doesn't mean, however, that I don't like shopping in physical stores, but it is obvious that the industry is changing a lot. The pandemic has moved some of the existing consumers to digital. Generations younger than me are even more digitally engaged customers who will accelerate the further development of the e-grocery market. With all this in mind, it is time for grocery retailers to adopt technology that will improve customer experience, combine offline and online experiences through a comprehensive omnichannel strategy. One of the options that combines these experiences is click & collect. In this model, the buyer places an order online and picks up the purchases himself from the physical store. This model did great during the pandemic, however it has its flaws: customers do not always show up as expected to pick up their purchases, secondly, both online and in-store shoppers could arrive at the same time during peak times, which would lead to congestion of the point and increased waiting times. That is why we have designed and manufactured automatic lockers for the grocery market that store refrigerated deliveries until their collection. The device can be placed anywhere, customers can be sure that their products are fresh and employees can focus on other duties and customer service in the store. We estimate that over the next two years this market sector will develop dynamically, and e-commerce, centralized delivery and all-in-store customer experiences will be the main drivers of these changes.
The interview was carried out as part of the 3rd Congress of Modern Distribution, which took place on November 24-25, 2021 in Warsaw.