Canadian Tire is evolving its e-commerce strategy and setting up giant self-serve pick-up towers in Canada — which is a Canadian first, according to assistant vice-president of Click & Collect.
“All the feedback from our customers around our in-store pickup has been that the wait time is too long to pickup their orders,” Alma Obeid said.
“The self-serve pick-up tower really makes that customer experience very quick, taking it down to 20 to 30 seconds.”
The towers were recently launched in select locations across Canada: Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Saskatoon.
They are similar to a large vending machine. Customers put in a PIN or QR code, the machine reads it, a window opens up and the package comes out.
At 16.5 feet tall, the tower holds up to 250 orders.
“We’re giving them the convenience where they want it,” Obeid said, “giving them the opportunity to shop how they want and when they want.”
Like many other retailers, Canadian Tire says e-commerce is a huge part of its business — possibly the largest-growing segment.
So after a lot of research and money — the amount was not disclosed — the company came up with the towers.
Experts at the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta said technology is dramatically changing the industry, as retailers realize time is money.
“Anything that can do something more efficiently or faster or better than the previous systems is going to be adopted,” John Pracejus said.
Pracejus also isn’t overly concerned with the possible job losses automation can bring to the sector.
“I think a lot of the things that are being automated are really the mundane,” he said.
“I think the jobs that remain will be better ones and they’ll certainly require skills.”
Canadian Tire said these towers will not result in job losses, adding they will still require staff to do all of the work.
“The store staff is still picking the items off the floor, they’re still packing them. The store staff is actually the ones putting it into here,” Obeid said.
“What it actually does is allow our store staff to deliver better customer service to the customers standing in line.”
The retailer may be the first out of the gate when it comes to these towers but others, like Walmart, are close behind.
The company has announced plans for similar towers in Canada and is reported to be testing a couple of them in Ontario.