With demand increasing, prices spike for sites located near population centers.

Whatever the facts and figures surrounding ongoing COVID-19 infections, the public discourse suggests that many political leaders and their voters are over, or want to be over, the pandemic. But one COVID phenomenon is unlikely to change: the growth in e-commerce and consumer demands for accelerated deliveries.

A recent study from Roadie, a UPS company that provides crowdsourced deliveries, found that consumers increasingly expect same-day e-commerce deliveries and are willing to pay extra for them. More importantly, the survey indicated that same-day deliveries generate immediate and positive effects on sales.

The survey responses demonstrate that “there’s a lot at stake” with same-day deliveries, said Valerie Metzker, head of partnerships and enterprise sales at Roadie. “When customers want something quickly, they’ll go with the provider that can get the order to them when they need it.”

In order to make that happen, e-commerce players need to locate inventory within or close to population centers. So, it comes as no surprise that the search for and development of last-mile distribution properties continues to grow, in a variety of sectors, including groceries and household goods.

Last Mile Logistics Space

Online grocery shopping, one of the fastest-growing segments of e-commerce, is one of the prime movers in the last-mile logistics space because of consumer demands for quick deliveries—not just same-day, but, in that space, within hours. Online grocery sales in the U.S. are expected to grow at a rate of 18% per year through 2023, according to a report from the market research firm Interact Analysis. Another recent report indicated that 70% of U.S. consumers now shop for groceries online at least some of the time, up from 40% at the beginning of 2021.

The speed at which groceries are expected to be delivered creates the demand for fulfillment centers within or directly adjacent to residential areas. That, in turn, suggests the desirability of positioning inventory in very small facilities and deploying technology to boost productivity.

In May, the cooperative wholesaler Associated Wholesale Grocers formed a partnership with Takeoff Technologies, a Massachusetts-based technology company that develops micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs)—miniature, automated warehouses that use robots to fulfill online orders. Typically holding between 12,000 and 20,000 of the most popular products, MFCs can operate as stand-alone facilities or inside the back of existing stores. Combining proximity to shoppers with automation provides two competitive advantages to grocery retailers looking to boost sales with an online alternative.

“AWG has been exploring emerging technologies to address the ever-changing retail landscape,” said Jeff Pedersen, an executive vice president at AWG. “The partnership between AWG and Takeoff Technologies represents a significant opportunity for AWG and its members to profitably grow online sales.”

Research by Takeoff Technologies indicates that MFCs increase productivity by up to ten times through improved speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Robotic fulfillment can reduce or eliminate product substitutions, according to the study, by providing real-time information…

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