Collecting furniture from the drive-in counter at Ikea
Everyone is familiar with the scenario. You’re driving in the car feeling hungry. On the spur of the moment you pull into one of the major fast-food chains, order one of the burger meals at the drive-in terminal, and just a few meters further along you are handed a bag full of food through the open window of the car. How convenient would it be to be able to buy bulky goods such as furniture or products from the home improvement store in the same way?
Even though the first drive-ins appeared in Germany in the 1950s in the form of drive-in cinemas, it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that McDonald’s opened its first drive-in restaurant to sell its burgers in Berlin. Drive-ins have risen in popularity in Germany ever since and the success of the practical counters has meant that they are by no means only used by fast-food restaurants nowadays.
One area of focus has been on supermarket chains such as Rewe, Metro and Real, which have tested the collection of items purchased beforehand online from their stores. The retailers have acted for good reason, because the online giant Amazon has already positioned itself in the USA with its Fresh service and corresponding pickup points for grocery shopping. Observers therefore see one of the most important uses for click-and-collect services and other pickup solutions in the food segment, where shoppers load their goods into the car on the basis of the drive-in model.
The emphasis has been on smaller, manageable items until now – but what about furniture and bulky goods?
Yet it doesn’t necessarily just have to involve articles for everyday use. Many people who have pushed their unwieldy shopping cart around a full home improvement store or one of the major furniture stores will have certainly wished at some point that they could simply order their goods beforehand and conveniently collect them from a pickup point of such a store instead of having to battle through the weekend crowds.
Everyone is familiar with the huge high-bay warehouses used by furniture stores like Ikea and others, in which all the Billy, Raka, and Kalla cupboards are stored before shoppers heave them onto their shopping carts. In terms of design, automated vertical carousels are ideal for storing large and heavy goods of this kind. With their compact dimensions they can be easily installed in restricted spaces and extend up to heights of ten meters or more. Why shouldn’t such a storage lift be integrated into a store’s entrance area or parking lot? Consumers would then no longer have to traipse around the home improvement or furniture store and could instead immediately pick up the desired items. Yet customers of Ikea and its competitors must be patient for the time being, because none of these companies is currently making any effort to set up pickup points of this kind. And it is little wonder, since the furniture stores benefit hugely from the many impulse purchases made by the customers who pass the countless tempting offers as they make their long way to the checkout.
Even though the same applies to home improvement stores, they are already ahead of the game. A pickup point makes perfect sense here, particularly when it comes to collecting heavy items such as tiles or building materials. Major players such as Hornbach and Bauhaus have already reacted in this regard by incorporating drive-in areas for customers in certain stores.
From vision to reality: Walmart customers can pick up their shopping from a shuttle
Regardless whether furniture or food, compared to home delivery the pickup system has the advantage of allowing the customer to freely choose the collection time and save money on the sometimes steep delivery costs, even though they have to make a detour to pick up the goods themselves. In view of the broad geographical coverage of supermarket chains in Germany, the detour should be of little consequence to most customers. In technical terms, such a solution is now quite feasible due to state-of-the-art storage systems, because some of them can also accommodate chilled goods.
The US retail giant Walmart is demonstrating how the collection of purchased goods can work in reality. The company has begun to install pickup towers in its US stores, from which customers can collect goods that they have ordered online beforehand. The pickup points in the form of a storage shuttle have now been installed in the entrance areas of 200 stores, with another 500 of these units set to be added by the end of 2018.
Storage units like the towers used by Walmart have the advantage of being able to securely store a very large number of heterogeneous items on a comparatively small footprint and make them available extremely quickly as and when needed. Even the accuracy required when dispensing shopping remains almost one hundred percent guaranteed thanks to the picking precision of these systems.
Once the customers have purchased their shopping, they are sent an e-mail with a barcode, which is then scanned at the tower. The goods are then retrieved in less than a minute. The units are now being equipped with additional lockable boxes so that larger items such as televisions can also be sold in this way. Walmart is very happy with the level of customer acceptance, because over 500,000 orders have so far been picked up from the towers. It remains to be seen if and when Ikea and other retailers will be convinced by such a solution. Their customers would certainly thank them.