How to Turn Your Store into a Dark Store

How to Turn Your Store into a Dark Store

Andrea Kriegsman

Friday, March 26, 2021

For several years you can shop online and offline and get products delivered to your doorstep within several days. But how is the e-commerce industry evolving, and how does this impact traditional retail?

Companies have been exploring new ways of growing their business through all kinds of strategies, from traditional marketing campaigns to discount on products in both retail and online stores. How do bigger retailers with the team power and money to focus on the last-mile move up their game?

Simple. They focus on using their physical retail locations as a so-called dark store.

What is a dark store?

A dark store or hub is a location used to hold stock for e-commerce purposes, sometimes the existing store during non-functioning hours, or a separate site altogether. This is different from a warehouse because dark stores can facilitate click-and-collect pick-up from customers. A warehouse will not do that.

Dark stores are used to continue to flow from local stock from online to the customers’ hands, but in a locally-focused way, providing customers the opportunity to pick up their products or turn their store location into a hub to ship from.

While renting large warehouse space to host your products sounds like a complicated approach, it’s not the only way to have access to a dark store – just turn your own store into one during “closed” hours. This way, you can utilize space your organization already has and make use of your already available stock.

How an existing company turned their stores into dark stores?

Think about Ikea’s use of dark stores. Most of us are familiar with Ikea’s iconic layout and shopping experience. Entering a maze of displays, organized by product type or room. When the first outbreak of Covid-19 happened, and all stores closed, Ikea used their stores as dark stores, or a hub, so that customers can still come by and pick up products they ordered online. If that product wasn’t available at the store itself, you could pick it up from their warehouse.

This allowed customers to still pick up all their home necessities while making use of their stores that customers could no longer enter using the already available stock.

How a dark store will help your store during COVID-19?​

We all noticed that during the first initial months of COVID-19, mail and deliveries were delayed compared to expected delivery times. This was due to the sudden increase of online shopping behavior since stores closed and everyone had to purchase their goods online.

This meant that deliveries that would typically take a few days to a few weeks now took weeks to months for them to be received by their intended audience. To prevent this from happening and reduce the number of deliveries going through typical logistics companies, operating your store like a dark store can reduce the number of parcels going through the standard supply chain.

Since COVID has made it increasingly difficult for shoppers to enter stores and shop in person, the best thing a business owner can do is advertise and become available online. Turn foot traffic into online traffic, turn transaction rates into conversions.

Start by informing your customers that your store is available online, make them more aware, and increase your presence in their minds. Make sure your social media accounts are up to date, that you’re regularly keeping contact with stakeholders, and you maintain their interests.

  1. Improve your online presence, so your customers know that you are available online!

  2. Make sure your webshop is up to date.

  3. Turn your store into a dark store. There’s 2 ways to do this – Offer in-store pick up for your customers or ship your local available stock.

By following these three steps, you open your store to a broader audience and make your store available even when it can’t be open, which makes your store more available for all potential consumers, but even more easy to recall for your regular shoppers.

How to turn your local store into a dark store using Packaly?

  • Inform your customers that your store is still functioning at full capacity.

  • Post on new channels the availability of the products in your store.

  • Inform your clients that they can still place orders and receive them when it suits them best.

  • Register your store with Packaly – no integration required!

  • Prepare your first shipments and just wait for a courier to come by to pick up the parcel.

  • Congratulations! You’ve sent your first shipment using Packaly.