TECHNOLOGY

Kroger begins an unconventional delivery service—no driver required

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Kroger Co. has gone driverless in Scottsdale.

On Thursday, the supermarket giant formally launched its self-driving grocery delivery pilot at a Fry’s Food location in Scottsdale, Arizona. The launch comes several weeks after Kroger announced its partnership with tech startup Nuro, the maker of a fully unmanned vehicle.

Initially, deliveries will be made by Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius fleet. But sometime later this fall, the deliveries will be made by Nuro’s custom R1 driverless vehicle (shown in the photo above). The self-driving vehicle, which has been called a “delivery pod,” is about half the size of a Toyota Corolla, and is specifically designed for the local transportation of goods.

“We’re excited to launch our autonomous vehicle delivery pilot with Fry’s in Scottsdale,” said Kroger chief digital officer Yael Cosset. “Kroger wants to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery, and our pilot with Nuro will help us test and learn to understand customer acceptance of autonomous vehicles in our seamless offering.”

Here’s how it works: Customers place delivery orders online or through Fry’s mobile app, and then choose a delivery time based on slot availability. Grocery orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery. Orders will arrive via the car, and be left at the customer’s curb. There is a flat fee of $5.95, and no minimum order is required to use the service.

This is only one of Kroger’s plans to bolster its digital offering, and compete with rivals, such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. Earlier this month for example, the company launched Kroger Ship, a service that delivers goods through third-party carriers. The service will initially be available in Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, and Nashville. More markets will be added over the next few months.

In May, Kroger announced an exclusive partnership with British online grocer market Ocado, and acquired online meal-kit company Home Chef. Early efforts are making an impact, as the chain reported its first quarter digital sales grew by 66%.

To better focus on these initiatives, the grocer also established a separate headquarters for its digital team in downtown Cincinnati. It will house approximately 600 existing Kroger digital associates at first, who are being relocated from another facility. The retailer said it expects to grow its digital team to more than 1,000 over the next three years.

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g.johnson says:
Aug-17-2018 11:54 am

I Can not wait for Kroger to launch this into the Boise market. Move over Albertsons.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online furniture e-retailer adds interior designers to its offering

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wayfair now offers a platform that connects designers with online customers — for a small fee.

The furniture e-retailer launched its e-design platform, Design Services, a program that connects interior designers with Wayfair customers in real-time. The platform gives customers a convenient and affordable way to work with interior designers as they shop for their homes.

The service offers two options that enable customers to collaborate with designers one-on-one. The “Lite Package” features unlimited online messaging, up to 30 minutes of phone time with a designer, and help selecting product. The “Design Service” offers all of the Lite Package amenities, as well as extra phone time with the designer, a custom floor plan, and 2-D room design rendering. Both services entitle customers to work closely with designers throughout the project to review concepts, room designs and shopping lists.

The Lite Package is $79, and Design Services runs $149, according to Wayfair.

“With Design Services, Wayfair is helping to connect the dots for customers who are designing an entirely new space or simply redecorating,” said Blair Kenary, head of Design Services, Wayfair. “This new service takes the guesswork out of shopping for the home by allowing anyone to work with a talented professional, at a price they can afford, to make their personal design vision a reality.”

The service comes on the heels of Wayfair’s new mixed reality (MR) commerce experience. On Aug. 8, the company announced it will offer a new visual platform that integrates physical and digital objects in real-time. Wayfair is partnering with virtual reality start-up Magic Leap on the project.

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Kroger in partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant

BY Marianne Wilson

Kroger Co. is continuing its push into online retail by teaming up with Chinese e-commerce site — and Amazon rival — Amazon rival Alibaba Group.

The nation’s largest supermarket chain announced a pilot program to sell its private-label products in an online store on Alibaba’s Tmall global platform. The initiative is Kroger’s first venture overseas.

The online test will start with Kroger’s in-house Simple Truth natural and organic brand. Launched in 2012, the brand reached more than $2 billion in annual sales, making it the largest natural and organic brand in America.

“E-commerce enables Kroger to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don’t operate physical stores, starting with China,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “We anticipate Chinese consumers will love Our Brands – starting with Simple Truth products – just like our American customers do. Kroger is proud to continue to lead the way in making natural, organic and free-from products more mainstream and accessible.”

The deal with Alibaba is the latest in a series of initiatives Kroger has made to expand its digital operations. In May, Kroger announced an exclusive partnership with British online grocery retailer Ocado tin a deal that will leverage Ocado’s digital and robotics capabilities to automate and better manage warehouse operations, logistics and delivery route planning. Also in May, it acquired online meal-kit company Home Chef.

“We are creating the grocery retail model of the future by focusing on digital and technology,” said Cosset.

Launched in 2014, Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform is China’s largest business-to-consumer marketplace. The platform provides brands and retailers without operations in China to build virtual storefronts and ship products into China.

Kroger is the world’s third largest retailer by revenue, with $122.7 billion in sales in 2017.

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