Daily Insights

The Digital Dark Store

By: Mackenzie Baker | Sep 14, 2020

Amazon-owned Whole Foods is testing out a new “dark store” where customers can order goods from a brick-and-mortar location, but are not actually allowed inside. 

The newest Whole Foods store in Brooklyn, New York only services online orders to be delivered to customers around the city. It’s the first store of its kind for Whole Foods, arriving amid a surge in grocery delivery during the Coronavirus pandemic. Though technically a grocery store, only Whole Foods workers and Amazon delivery people are allowed inside to fulfill orders. Additionally, the dark store is diversified by what customers can purchase. While traditional Whole Foods have salad bars, coffee stations, and hot food offerings, the new warehouse-grocery hybrid is only home to packaged goods and fresh produce. 

By creating a store specifically for grocery delivery, Whole Foods can eliminate one of its largest customer concerns: crowded aisles. Clogged aisles filled with customers and delivery app workers became a burgeoning problem as grocery app ordering swelled during the pandemic. Whole Foods is not the only grocery to turn to the dark store method to solve this problem however, as Kroger and Giant Eagle also embraced the order-only store model recently. With many customers still trying to limit in-person ventures during the pandemic, having a nearby grocery delivery option could appeal to current and new Whole Foods customers. While the new Whole Foods only services Brooklyn residents, the model could provide a blueprint for future locations around the country. As Amazon expands its grocery enterprise, diversifying its brick and mortar stores could boost grocery shopper loyalty according to a Gartner report

Grocery delivery is one of the fastest growing services at Amazon, so the new Whole Foods dark store could help grow its presence in the industry. The dedicated delivery store could signal a permanent shift in the grocery market as delivery, rather than in-person shopping, becomes the new normal.