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Chilled smart lockers for food set to add new ways to shop grocery online

Big in Australia, chilled smart lockers look set to create a new channel for online grocery delivery sitting somewhere between click and collect and delivery.

With online food delivery revenues predicted to reach €43bn (£37bn) in the European Union this year, chilled and frozen automated Smartlockers – designed for keeping food fresh – look set to become a much more familiar site in European towns and cities.

Evidence can be found in the success of Panasonic chilled and frozen automated Smartlockers at Australian retail outlets, where food orders are stored safely in outside Smartlockers for collection even at the height of summer, when temperatures can reach up to 50°C.

The use of Smartlockers in the Southern Hemisphere has also improved choice for consumers and boosted margins for businesses. With online orders continuing to grow pre and post pandemic, Australian supermarket retailers have deployed Panasonic Smartlockers outside their stores and petrol stations for customer order collections, improving customer convenience and reducing the number of home deliveries the stores must make. 

One popular supermarket chain recognised that customers preferred the speed and convenience of collecting their purchases from lockers rather than instore. After switching the grocery delivery to Panasonic Smartlockers, online orders for collection each week increased four-fold. Following a successful 6-month pilot project, the retailer has increased its order for indoor and outdoor Smartlockers by 500% and they are currently being rolled out nationwide.

Panasonic Smartlocker is a modular designed system, offering a range of four different temperature lockers – ambient, chilled, freezer and heated. With the long, hot Australian summers, the chiller and freezer options were the ideal choice for the retailers. The indoor and outdoor versions are available in 6, 8, 10 or 12 door units managed by an inbuilt system using a central control screen. The system can be used standalone or connected to ecommerce and order management systems via the cloud. 

Customer convenience

For the users it means a fast, secure and contactless delivery solution, allowing goods to be collected and returned easily, efficiently and flexibly. With 24/7 access, the Panasonic Smartlocker allows customers to collect items at a time and location that suits them. Using Panasonic Vacuumed Insulated Panel (VIP) technology, which maintains the ideal temperature in the locker using less energy and CO2 emissions, customers can also be certain that foods will be kept safely in a temperature-controlled area.

For the operator, the Smartlockers save time, resources and operational expense. It means orders can be quickly loaded for collection without taking up valuable storage space in the stores. With monitoring capabilities and data encryption, operators can verify access to lockers, including pick-up and drop-off times. In addition, home delivery requirements are reduced, decreasing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

The ability to track and analyse usage data from the Smartlockers has enabled the business to optimise staffing and usage based on customer behaviour. One retailer reported that on average, customer orders are ready to collect within 90 minutes. The goods remain in the lockers for 70 minutes before collection and customers take just 2 minutes to collect their goods and leave. They are also able to track important data, such as the size of orders, peak times for collection and then plan for effective staff resourcing.

Yasuhiro Oda, General Manager, at Panasonic Connect, comments: “The Smartlockers are a game-changer for these supermarkets. They offer a convenient, cost effective and more eco-friendly solution to the online shopping boom. Retailers tell us that the temperature controlled capabilities of the Panasonic Smartlockers and their reliability make them stand out in the market.”

In addition, with restaurant to consumer deliveries already the largest market segment of online food deliveries in the EU, uses for the Panasonic Smartlockers look set to continue to expand. The heated Smartlockers are ideal for takeaway storage collection and with the growth of daily meal ingredient delivery services, chilled local community Smartlockers are perfect for collecting evening meal ingredients on the way home from work.

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