The greater Boston area will soon see self-driving vehicles bringing groceries to ecommerce shoppers' doorsteps, with Stop & Shop planning to launch the service in the spring.
Beantown-area residents will be able to choose from a selection of Stop & Shop produce, meal kits and convenience items for delivery through the service, made possible through a partnership with San Francisco-based startup Robomart. The engagement will also offer the potential for Stop & Shop to expand beyond its existing brick-and-mortar footprint.
“This is one way in which we’re leveraging new technology to make shopping easier for our customers -- by essentially bringing the store to them,” said Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan. “We also recognize that many of our customers want the opportunity to make their own choices when it comes to fresh produce, and we're proud to be the first retailer to engage with Robomart to address our customers’ needs with their cutting-edge solution.”
Robomart's vehicles are electric-powered, remotely piloted from a Robomart facility and restocked throughout their journeys. To use the service:
- Shoppers summon the vehicle via mobile app
- Upon the vehicle's arrival, customers head outside, unlock the vehicle's doors, and then pick the produce and other products they wish to buy
- When finished, shoppers close the doors and send the vehicle on its way
- Shoppers are charged and emailed a receipt based on what RFID and computer vision records of products removed
“For decades, consumers had the convenience of their local greengrocer and milkman coming door to door, and we believe that by leveraging driverless technology, we can recreate that level of convenience and accessibility,” said Ali Ahmed, founder and CEO of Robomart. “We’re extremely excited to bring our vision to life with Stop & Shop, one of the most pioneering and forward-thinking grocery chains in the world.”
It was a year ago that Robomart made its debut at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES show, where it noted that nearly nine in 10 consumers age 26 to 44 don't purchase fresh produce online because they feel home delivery is too expensive and they want to purchase their own produce. Since then, a number of other grocers large and small have begun launching similar delivery pilots of their own.
Other major U.S. grocers entering the autonomous grocery delivery market are Cincinnati-based Kroger, which, following a pilot in the city, launched a service in partnership with technology company Nuro in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, which is teaming with technology company Udelv to introduce delivery via autonomous vans in Surprise, Ariz. Additional grocers employing autonomous delivery include San Francisco Bay Area microgrocer Farmstead and Oklahoma City-area independent grocer Buy For Less.
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. is a banner of Ahold Delhaize USA, No. 4 on Progressive Grocer's Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States. The Quincy, Mass.-based chain operates more than 400 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, and employs 61,000-plus associates.