Woolworths opens new eStore to meet surging online demand

Woolworths has made a move to meet the surging demand for online orders by opening a new eStore in Queensland.

It’s expected that the new technology will facilitate thousands of extra online orders to be delivered each week, including more on a same-day basis.

Sunshine Coast customers can now expect their online orders to come out of the cutting-edge facility, which has been built in the Woolworths Maroochydore store in the Big Top Shopping centre.

The 1250 square metre space has been equipped with micro-fulfillment technology which will use robotic systems to sort and move products from automated storage units directly to team members who are handpicking customer orders.

The technology will be used to streamline the picking of the most in-demand grocery products purchased by customers. Each unit can hold up to 10,000 popular everyday grocery products.

Woman working in Woolworths eStore.
Woolworths has created a number of new jobs including a Stock & Systems Manager, who is responsible for the technology and inventory. Source: Woolworths

Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat will continue to be picked by staff from the shop floor.

Supermarkets have experienced a huge increase in the demand for online grocery orders as different states go in and out of lockdown.

This new micro-fulfillment technology is expected to dramatically improve the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of the picking process.

Woolworths eStore creates more jobs

The eStore will also create more jobs with Woolworths hiring 80 new employees and appointing close to 150 team members to fill orders,

“As customer expectations continue to rise, we’re investing in cutting-edge technology on the Sunshine Coast to build an even better and more convenient online offer for local customers,” Woolworths Director of eCommerce, Annette Karantoni said.

Man working in Woolworths eStore.
The cutting-edge technology will be used by 150 staff members to pack orders. Source: Woolworths

“This technology will help our team of 150 personal shoppers pick orders with greater speed and accuracy while keeping us close to our Sunshine Coast customers for faster and more flexible deliveries to the home.

"The new delivery capacity comes at a critical time as more of our customers turn to home delivery through the pandemic.”

Additionally, the eStore reduces congestion in the aisles for customers, with most items now being packaged at the back of the store.

The Maroochydore eStore will service home delivery orders spanning from Coolum Beach to Wurtulla.

The plan for Woolworths eStores began in August 2019 when a partnership with Takeoff Technologies was first announced.

The Maroochydore eStore is one of four Woolworths Group sites to implement the new technology after a site began operating in Carrum Downs, Victoria, and two other sites opened in New Zealand earlier.

Experts say the move is needed

As different parts of the nation continue to going and out of lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, supermarket online and delivery systems continue to operate under pressure.

eStore technology packing grocery orders for Woolworths.
Experts say the move by Woolworths is necessary to keep up with the current demand and the ongoing growth in online grocery shopping. Source: Woolworths

Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at Queensland University of Technology, Gary Mortimer says moves such as this from Woolworths are necessary.

"When supermarkets encounter a sudden lift in demand it does create some challenging environments," he said.

"Supermarkets are investing considerable amounts of money into upgrading their online infrastructure including the rolling out of automated pick centres eStore fulfilment centres as well as dark stores.

"If you’ve got a fulfilment centre close to a suburb next to a store, you can facilitate online orders a lot quicker."

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