Albertsons, the third-largest grocery retailer in the US, has partnered with Tortoise, a logistics automaton firm, to pilot a remote-controlled zero-emission delivery cart in Northern California .
Contactless delivery solution
The pilot is being led by the retailer’s Safeway division. The cart, powered by Tortoise, is equipped with a camera and a speaker. Travelling at 3mph, it is guided through the neighbourhood by a remote operator. When the cart arrives at a customer’s home, a text is sent for them to come outside and pick up their groceries. It can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers, enabling a contactless delivery experience. As part of the pilot programme, the cart is accompanied by an escort.
Optimising a partnership model
This is the latest of several last-mile pilots underway within the business. Last year, it started to pilot pickup lockers in Chicago and San Francisco, complementing its home delivery and store pickup models. The contactless, temperature-controlled lockers support a quick and easy pickup experience for shoppers. In Chicago, the retailer is also testing an automated kiosk. Customers using this solution scan a code on their phone and their groceries are robotically delivered to the front of the unit for pickup. These three pilots demonstrate the increasing role of partnerships in the food retail sector, contrasting with a previous approach to develop everything in-house.
Tackling last-mile challenges
The last mile has become increasingly competitive place as the food industry and disruptors continue to create solutions that make online shopping even more convenient and the delivery of goods extremely quick for shoppers. The pandemic-driven acceleration in grocery ecommerce has sharpened operators’ focus in this area, given the contribution to total fulfillment costs and the ongoing profitability challenge for the channel. Solutions such as Tortoise also tap into the increasing demand for contactless delivery models, as shoppers seek to minimise human interaction.
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