Walmart Canada is accelerating its e-commerce business as construction has started on its first fully-automated market fulfilment centre inside the Scarborough West Supercentre (1900 Eglinton Ave E.).
The retailer said the 22,000-square-foot space will automate online grocery picking and dispensing with picking speeds up to six-times faster than manual store picking and the new space will also feature a first for a big grocery retailer in Canada: automated kiosks that serve as vending machines for online grocery orders and can serve up to five customers simultaneously.
“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,” said Horacio Barbeito, President and CEO at Walmart Canada, in a statement.
The company said customers will be able to drive up to a dedicated parking spot, enter a code and ordered items will appear in less than two minutes, ready to load into their cars. The new space, a partnership with intelligent automation provider, Dematic, will open later this year.
Walmart will be expanding grocery pickup service to 60 more stores this year, which will mean that 85 percent of Walmart Canada stores will offer grocery pickup services.
“Innovation is not a department, it’s a mindset and one everyone at Walmart Canada takes very seriously because that’s what our customers want. We are a business that is focused on innovation so we can stay at the forefront and deliver for our customers every single time they choose Walmart,” said Sam Wankowski, Chief Operations Officer at Walmart Canada
In Quebec and Vancouver Walmart recently launched grocery delivery where products are picked by Walmart staff — this concept will be expanding to Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg later this year. It is also expanding partnerships with third party partners such as Cornershop and Instacart to serve more customers and increase fulfillment speed.
It is offering an expanded assortment of general merchandise and apparel available for customers to shop online for on-demand fulfillment at the same everyday low prices (as much as 20 percent increase in items).
Piloting “ring scanner” technology will be in stores, allowing associates to pick and scan items faster by working handsfree.
It is also doubling the number of stores offering “ship from store” to 30 locations. These stores ship items directly to customer homes from a store – not from a fulfilment centre, speeding up the delivery for customers.
The company said its acceleration of e-commerce is part of its $3.5 billion investment over the next five years to make the online and in-store shopping experience simpler, faster, and more convenient for Walmart’s customers.
Saeed Anslow, Senior Director OMNI Channel & Online Grocery for Walmart Canada, said 2020 was an interesting year with a big acceleration of the e-commerce business.
“We’re really trying to build on the momentum that we saw in 2020 and accelerate our plans for this year. We know the customer is going in this direction and we really want to be there for the customer,” said Anslow.
“We really see the store as the real competitive advantage for us and we really want to use the store footprint. We will have lots of different models and versions out there depending on the particular market the store is in.”
Dematic Account Manager, Christoph Buchmann, who has been working closely with Walmart on this project, said Walmart is a market leader, and in many ways paves the path of innovation for retailers by demonstrating what the future will look like in the industry.
“It is a privilege to partner and work with the company as we share their vision for the future of retail. Micro-fulfilment is a paradigm shift and Walmart has its eyes set on the future,” he said
“Micro-fulfilment focuses on the customer experience. With Dematic’s technology, Walmart will be able to create a new and enhanced customer experience for online grocery shopping, providing unrivaled levels of convenience, speed, and customization. With Dematic’s micro-fulfilment solution, they also will be able to provide a whole new curbside pick up experience to customers, which will be unique in Canada. By leveraging automation within their omni-channel strategy Walmart will boost productivity and reduce the cost of order fulfilment.”