Have you heard of dark stores or cloud kitchens? Despite their names, they have nothing to do with interior design. The Quick Commerce phenomenon is gaining traction, giving rise to new business models. The dark store industry alone is expected to generate $414.31 billion by 2033, a 30% increase from 2023

In this article, we'll explore the software driving the dark store model and uncover key considerations you should know before developing your dark store application.

What are the Dark Stores?

A Dark Store (dark shop, dark supermarket) is a retail space or warehouse dedicated to online order fulfillment. Unlike traditional stores that serve walk-in customers, dark stores and dark kitchens are closed to the public, focusing solely on digital orders they receive from websites, apps, and third-party platforms. These facilities act as distribution hubs, optimized for picking, packing, and shipping products to online customers.

Dark stores compete with traditional supermarket delivery services by promising quick grocery deliveries. They’re usually located in urban areas and can carry a wide range of items, from clothing and electronics to groceries and household goods. Since dark stores don't serve walk-in customers, they can be located in smaller, less popular spaces, allowing significantly lower rent prices and higher inventory density compared to traditional offline business. This model  results in competitive customer prices due to lower overhead costs.

How do Dark Stores operate

The operation process of the dark shops is quite simple. When a customer submits an online order, the request is sent to the staff at the dark store, who then fulfill the order within the facility. The staff picks and packages the items based on the customer's order. Once the order is packaged, the courier delivers it directly to the customer's address.

The dark store spots don't need to be visible to passers-by, instead, they require good transport connections for delivery couriers and daily restocking.

Delivery app order flow
Delivery app order flow

Back in 2009, Tesco, a UK supermarket chain, introduced the first-ever dark store concept. This new retail model soon caught on globally. Over the past decade, dark store apps like Delivery Hero and Instacart have emerged, significantly impacting the grocery delivery industry.

dark store apps

Types of Software Used by Dark Stores

So as you can see dark stores prioritize delivery over in-person sales, making efficient technology a crucial element. For example, order management systems need seamless integration with software for real-time order tracking, picking, packing, and delivery. This ensures accurate order fulfillment and prompt delivery. Now, let's explore the standard software setup for dark store operations and its core functionality.

Customer App 

Customer application is typically available as both an e-commerce website and a convenient mobile app. Its goal is to provide a seamless shopping experience, allowing users to quickly browse products, place orders, and track deliveries.

Dark store delivery app features

Courier App 

The application for couriers aims to streamline the delivery process, allowing couriers to efficiently manage orders, navigate routes, and update delivery statuses in real time. Seamless integration with backend systems is also crucial for real-time updates and inventory management.

Dark store courier app features

Admin Panel

The admin console for a grocery delivery store is designed to optimize operations by allowing administrators to efficiently manage orders, monitor deliveries, and oversee inventory in real-time. Seamless integration with backend systems is crucial for providing real-time updates and comprehensive analytics.

Dark store admin app features

App Ecosystem for the Dark Store Business

Starting a quick commerce business with 10-minute delivery may seem pretty clear - develop a business plan, set up the required technology, obtain funding, and choose warehouse locations. However, this simplified view is like the infamous "how to draw an owl" meme, skipping over the many details involved. So let's quickly rundown on how to build a robust digital ecosystem for a dark store business:

Step 1: Choose a Reputable App Development Firm

Start by finding a reliable app development company specializing in food delivery services. Many firms are capable of meeting specific client needs, so take the time to select the best one. This involves evaluating their expertise, reviewing past projects, and ensuring they understand your business goals. Once you’ve identified the right developer, finalize the contract to begin the development process.

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Step 2: Plan Your Digital Ecosystem

Collaborate with your chosen app development firm to design and develop a comprehensive quick commerce digital ecosystem. This solution will include:

  1. Customer App (Website and Mobile Application): This is the interface for your customers, where they will browse products, place orders, and track deliveries. Ensure it is user-friendly, intuitive, and efficient.
  2. Courier App: This app is essential for your delivery personnel. It will streamline order management and ensure that deliveries are timely and efficient. Features like real-time tracking, route optimization, and order updates are crucial.
  3. Admin Panel: The admin panel is the control center for your operations. It allows you to manage orders, monitor performance, and handle customer service issues. It should be equipped with robust analytics and reporting tools to provide insights into your business operations.
  4. Integrations with CRM and WMS: Make sure your system is integrated with CRM and WMS platforms. These integrations will create a seamless backend that connects all aspects of your operations. Additional third-party integrations usually include tools such as Google Maps API for navigation, payment gateways for transactions, accounting software like 1C, and other solutions.
Dark store app ecosystem

Step 3: Choose the Right and Secure Technology Stack

Selecting the appropriate technology stack is crucial for developing your app across multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and web. The key considerations here are security and the ability to scale quickly and easily. Ensure that the chosen technologies support robust security measures to protect user data and provide a seamless experience as your business grows

Step 4: Design and Develop Your Application

With your technology stack in place, the next step is to design and develop your applications. This involves creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for both customers and couriers. Focus on delivering a smooth user experience with easy navigation, fast load times, and clear calls to action. Work closely with your development team to ensure that the design aligns with your brand and meets the needs of your users.

Step 5: Testing and Deployment

Once your applications are developed, it's time to thoroughly test them to ensure they function as planned. Conduct various tests, including functionality testing, performance testing, and security testing, to identify and address any potential issues. Once testing is complete and any necessary adjustments have been made, it's time to deploy your apps to production and stores. 

Step 6: Continuous Improvement

The journey doesn't end with deployment. Continuously gather user feedback and reviews to identify areas for improvement. Regularly update your app with new features, enhancements, and bug fixes based on this feedback. Additionally, monitor analytics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track user engagement, retention, and revenue. This iterative approach ensures that your quick commerce business stays competitive and meets the evolving needs of your customers.

By teaming up with a reliable tech partner, you can create a complete Dark Store Application Ecosystem. Our delivery app case study showcases how we built a same-day delivery service for a dark store FMCG chain.

With Flutter's shared codebase, you can create apps for Web,  iOS and Android platforms, saving costs compared to separate apps. If you're interested in building an app for your Dark Store or a fast delivery application, – we'd be happy to discuss our feature list and implementation tips.

Leverage our expert development services to build your custom dark store app.

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