What is a Dark Store? The Rising Trend in e-Commerce

“Search, compare and, if you find something better, buy it.” That was the slogan for the Spanish brand Colón in the 80s — an ad that brought success to a company that wasn’t going through the best of times and that, in time, would end up being considered the best slogan for a Spanish advertising campaign. Nowadays, we keep doing what the famous claim told us to, but in a very different way. Searching and comparing is something we can now do with very little effort from our smartphone. But that isn’t the only thing that has changed: what we look for when we’re shopping is now very different from before.

Almacén de cajas.

According to a study on online sales carried out by AMVO, door to door delivery has become the most relevant feature for 62% of consumers, even above price. Currently, the first thing that online consumers look for and compare is how fast their products will be delivered. This has become one of the main postulates for e-commerces who develop new operational models in order to satisfy their clients’ needs in the least possible time. Models like the Dark Stores’, for example, are becoming more and more common in every city. But, how do they work?


Let’s start from the beginning:

What are Dark Stores?

A Dark Store isa store that works as an operations warehouse closed to the public—there are no boxes, clients walking around the halls and, least of all, advertising material— where orders come in directly from the websites or apps and are prepared for their delivery. Dark Stores (also known as dark supermarkets) are located in strategic, well-connected areas in order to reduce to the minimum the time that goes from the moment that users make the purchase until they receive the product.

So, that’s where we are now: there are shops that, even though they have a physical location and receive orders there, they only allow virtual visits.

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Characteristics of a Successful Dark Store

As is the case for any business, the characteristics of each store will determine its success or its failure. Here are some of the key points to have in mind if you want your Dark Store to be a success:

  • Location: As we’ve already mentioned, Dark Stores are usually located in strategic, well connected areas. Usually, these are located on the outskirts of cities, taking advantage of their easy access and the affordable prices of the land. However,the number of dark supermarkets in urban centres is increasing, due to their need to be able to offer faster delivery times in smaller areas of operations. The Urban Dark Stores business model allows them to complete retail orders (members) with fast, efficient and safe deliveries, 24/7, in 30 minutes or less. Some examples of these are El Corte Inglés or Dia Supermarkets.
  • Automation: Dark Stores are headed towards total automation. Some are already there and work with robots that pick up and pack the orders. Others are still developing and use a hybrid model, with automated trolleys that pick up the orders and take them to the staff in charge of programming the delivery.
  • Hours: A Dark Store is able to offer a much faster delivery service than a traditional store. That’s due, among other factors, to their hours. Dark Stores work 24/7, the 365 days of the year.

I think it’s a great business opportunity for emerging food and fresh products companies, because it can be advantageous for local producers that don’t sell in traditional stores – Laura Bolaños

Why Should You Set Up a Dark Store? Main Benefits:

The benefits for users are quite clear: it’s all about waiting times and product availability. But, what about companies? What’s good about having a Dark Store? Here’s what:

  1. State of the Inventory: Automation allows you to manage the inventory in real time and to know its state at all times.
  2. Opportunities for New Products: Thanks to the capacity of the long tail of the internet, introducing new products to the online store, ready to be delivered, becomes much easier.
  3. Globalisation for Retailers: This form of online business allows retailers to start operating in new regions and markets where they don’t have existing physical operations.
  4. Transportation Efficiency: Having a centralised route plan, allows trucks to be used at full capacity in every delivery.

Possibilities that Open Up New Roads

This business model offers so many possibilities to so many different industries, that new entrepreneurs are coming on board in large numbers. One of the last industries to come on board was hospitality. Dark Kitchens were born out of the Dark Store model. Industrial kitchens, closed to the public, that offer their service exclusively through online deliveries.This acts as a precedent for new industries and entrepreneurs that want to open up to the market. Dark Stores have laid the foundations for the rest of the delivery-based companies.

Article written in collaboration with: Laura Bolaños, MBA Graduate and Senior Project Manager at eComJungle.

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