Albertsons will be investing in more micro-fulfillment centers for online grocery orders as part of an expanded partnership with Takeoff Technologies.

Albertsons began piloting its first center Oct. 23 at a Safeway in San Francisco, and a second center begins its pilot at a Safeway in San Jose, Calif., in the coming weeks.

“The micro-fulfillment center model is a key element in the store of the future,” Albertsons president and CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a news release. “It combines the efficiency of automation with the ease of meeting customers when and how they want to shop. In working with Takeoff, we can evolve how the (micro-fulfillment center) ties into our store and e-commerce ecosystems and accelerate our path to best serve our customers.”

Micro-fulfillment centers are located inside existing stores and hold about 15,000-18,000 of the most popular products for that market. Takeoff asserts that micro-fulfillment centers increase productivity by up to 10 times and significantly reduce out-of-stocks because the system provides real-time information about inventory.

“In collaborating with Takeoff, we’re able to leverage their thought leadership in e-commerce fulfillment with our expertise in running great grocery stores that meet customers’ everyday needs, and that’s exciting turf for us,” Chris Rupp, executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer at Albertsons, said in the release. “By placing a (micro-fulfillment center) in an existing store close to customers, we can carry a diverse and locally relevant selection of products with the friendly touch of our local team to service the customer.”

 

E-commerce and produce

“Produce is one of our most popular categories online,” said Chris Wilcox, vice president of communications for Albertsons. “Our customers trust us because we pride ourselves on selling high-quality produce. Albertsons Cos. trains its e-commerce team members on how to select the produce carefully to ensure quality, optimal freshness and ripeness.”

When people order through Albertsons for delivery and pickup service, dedicated personal shoppers from Albertsons make the selections for orders.

“We’ve been in the home delivery business for some time, and we know it well,” Wilcox said. “We have many customers who shop frequently, so we can build great relationships. Also, all customers can give order comments for specific requests. If a customer wants their bananas a little green, we will select them the way they request.”

How produce is handled in a Takeoff micro-fulfillment center depends on the preference of the retailer, said co-founder and CEO Jose Aguerrevere.

“We do offer different picking methods within the (micro-fulfillment center) in order to manage the complex needs of different products,” Aguerrevere said. “We have a fully automated section which includes ambient and chilled products, where several produce items can be stored. We also have a smaller manual picking section, where grocers typically store more delicate produce. This produce is hand-picked by store employees who can perform a quality check while picking and guarantee their freshness standards.”

 

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