It’s part click-and-collect, part vending machine and part pandemic-friendly solution.
The next iteration of grocery shopping sits, rather unobtrusively, in a parking lot of a busy Jewel-Osco store in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. It's a contactless unit called a PickUp kiosk, but it looks more like the back of small freight truck.
The concept is simple and designed both for today’s COVID-19 era and for the general, ongoing push for convenience and customization. A customer orders her or his groceries ahead of time on the Jewel-Osco app, choosing a two-hour window for pickup. There's a typical four-hour gap between ordering and pickup to give employees enough time to shop for the items and bag and load the order.
After receiving an email with a scannable code when the order is ready, the customer can drive over to the store in the designated time slot and park in an adjacent Drive Up and Go parking spot. The next step is to scan the code in the front of the PickUp kiosk and wait for the parcels to be delivered via robot to one of two bins. The shopper opens the door to take the bags, and then moves to the next part of the order until it is complete.
On a recent visit by Progressive Grocer to the Jewel-Osco kiosk in Chicago, the order and pickup experience was quick and easy. Produce was fresh and individually bagged, and the meat was received at the proper temperature, thanks to the unit’s climate-controlled storage for refrigerated and frozen foods. The only caveat would be that shoppers need to park nearby or have a cart ready to load some of the bags if their orders are large.
Although it was a contactless and COVID-safe experience, there were some personal touches, including a callback by a helpful store employee after a question about pickup time, and a brief, distanced conversation with another kiosk shopper who enthusiastically endorsed this latest shopping concept.
Designed by the Estonian technology company Cleveron, the Chicago kiosk is the first of what are expected to be more units offered by Jewel-Osco’s parent company, Albertsons Cos. “We are supercharging our digital and omnichannel offerings to serve customers however they want, whenever they want,” said Chris Rupp, Albertsons’ EVP and chief customer and digital officer, when the kiosk rolled out earlier this month.
Albertsons plans to install a second unit at a Bay Area Safeway in the near future.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 398 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the banners Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen. The company is No. 8 on The PG 100, PG’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.