|Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions
Click-and-collect fulfillment requires new or improved refrigeration strategies to ensure food quality and safety. I recently discussed these approaches for Progressive Grocer magazine. Read the full article here.
To meet consumer demand for convenience, many food retailers are entering the omnichannel arena with a click-and-collect, curbside pickup option. This new model comes with high consumer expectations, especially for maintaining maximum freshness of perishable items. As we know, even the slightest deviations in holding temperatures can quickly impact perishable freshness and negatively affect a grocer’s reputation. One bad experience can quickly erode consumer confidence, spread through word of mouth, and even inflict long-term damage on a brand.
But when executed properly, a positive click-and-collect fulfillment process can result in significant business expansion and a thriving new revenue stream. It’s important to realize that this popular fulfillment model can place unique stains on a refrigeration system, such as maintaining ideal temperatures and humidity conditions in the face of frequent cooler door openings. Ensuring success will mean implementing an optimum refrigeration strategy. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a refrigeration system for click-and-collect fulfillment.
Implement smart controls
Modern control systems are ideal for click-and-collect applications to help retailers manage food quality from the time it enters the store to when it’s delivered to a customer. Best-available solutions combine facility management and supervisory controls with user-friendly software and mobile apps to deliver always-on, remote temperature monitoring and comprehensive management of store systems and refrigeration.
These controls help operators keep temperatures low during active fulfillment periods and adjust setpoints back up during non-peak hours to save energy during low-use hours — maintaining optimal conditions for perishable freshness. Monitoring services can detect system performance issues early and notify designated store managers via mobile alerts, enabling them to make informed decisions and quickly take corrective actions.
Consider outdoor condensing unit flexibility
Click-and-collect refrigeration may require facility operators to update their current systems to support reliable cold-storage and staging areas. These systems must be robust enough to meet low- and medium-temperature requirements, but also flexible enough to address the unique demands of click-and-collect fulfillment.
Self-contained outdoor condensing units (OCUs) are ideal for adding refrigeration capacity to new cold-storage areas without affecting a facility’s existing centralized refrigeration architecture. Modern OCUs are also equipped to address difficult setpoint and humidity challenges.
OCUs have compact footprints that allow for greater installation flexibility while combining advanced components with onboard controls to help maintain precise temperatures in difficult operating conditions. Proven scroll-compression technology helps these units deliver consistent reliability across a wide range of capacities (from 0.75 to 17 HP) to meet a variety of operational requirements. Electronic expansion valves, digital compression technology and specialized load-matching algorithms enable precise capacity modulation to match compressor capacity to fluctuating refrigeration loads during peak delivery periods.
Condensing-unit controls provide demand-driven defrost cycles and humidity management to help combat repeated door openings of cold-storage rooms and refrigerated lockers. Seamless integration with facility management controllers enables remote monitoring, power management and predictive diagnostics to help operators quickly respond to, and even potentially preempt, refrigeration faults or disruptions in performance.
Click-and-collect represents a tremendous growth opportunity for food retailers as consumers continue to embrace online grocery shopping. To succeed in this competitive arena, earn customer loyalty and capture market share, retailers will likely need to delight their customers with every transaction. These refrigeration strategies can help retailers deliver a seamless click-and-collect experience by ensuring consistency, freshness and quality with every order.