A cross-functional labor force is essential in meeting increased grocery e-commerce needs in the age of COVID-19 and beyond.
Spurred by higher adoption rates during the coronavirus crisis, e-commerce is poised to grow exponentially, meaning that, for many grocers, it’s all hands on deck.
“When the virus hit, everyone kind of had to shift into a new mindset of understanding how to pick and fulfill orders,” notes Mike Griswold, a research VP with the consumer value chain team at Gartner, a global research and advisory firm based in Stamford, Conn. “My hope is that from a training perspective, COVID-19 has shed a light on the importance of getting as many people with cross-functional experiences in a store as is practical. I would say almost everyone should be trained to pick orders, because you never know when you’re going to have that peak.”
Labor is just one consideration among many in retailers’ developing e-commerce strategies, adds Mark Baum, chief collaboration officer and SVP of industry relations at Arlington, Virginia-based FMI - The Food Industry Association.
“I think I read recently that 80% of American consumers have shopped for groceries online during the pandemic,” Baum says. “A number of them have shopped online for the first time and will continue to shop online, because they’ve discovered either through necessity or convenience that it’s not that hard. What that means from a supply chain standpoint is, what’s that mix of online going to look like vis-à-vis the in-store assortment going forward, and how do you deliver efficiently and profitably in an omnichannel supply chain?”
“At some point, retailers have to find a way to own that last mile,” Griswold concurs. “There’s a reason Amazon is building out its own fleet and why nearly half the Amazon packages are now delivered by Amazon trucks. Yes, it saves them money, but it also gives them more control over the experience.”