Kroger expands unconventional delivery service in Scottsdale
Deena M. Amato-McCoy
The nation’s largest supermarket retailer is bringing driverless deliveries to all customers in Scottsdale, Arizona.
On Tuesday, Kroger Co. introduced its autonomous grocery delivery service — and a new delivery fleet — to time-starved shoppers across Scottsdale. Through its partnership with tech startup Nuro, the maker of fully unmanned vehicles, Kroger is shipping groceries to customers using driverless cars. All deliveries are made by Nuro's custom unmanned vehicle known as the R1. The vehicle travels on public roads and has no driver and no passengers — it only transports goods.
Customers can place orders seven days a week at Fryfoods.com, or via the store’s mobile app, and then choose their delivery time based on slot availability. Orders, which can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery, will arrive via the unmanned car, and be left at the customer’s curb. There is a flat fee of $5.95, with no minimum is required to use the service.
The service builds upon a pilot the partners launched at a Fry’s Food location in Scottsdale, Arizona, back in August. At the time, the program made deliveries using a fleet of Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius cars.
"Kroger customers are looking for new, convenient ways to feed their families and purchase the products they need quickly through services like pickup and delivery," said Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer.
"Our autonomous delivery pilot with Nuro over the past few months continues to prove the benefit of the flexible and reliable technology,” he added. “Through this exciting and innovative partnership, we are delivering a great customer experience and advancing Kroger's commitment to redefine the grocery experience by creating an ecosystem that offers our customers anything, anytime, and anywhere.”
The self-driving cars are only one option in Kroger’s expanding digital ordering portfolio. For example, in November, Kroger announced that it will open its first customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Monroe, Ohio. The warehouse, which will be an automated facility that will leverage digital and robotic capabilities, will be the first project that it is collaborating on with Ocado. The two companies forged an exclusive partnership in May, a deal that will enable Kroger to leverage Ocado’s smart platform that supports online ordering, automated fulfillment and home delivery capabilities.
In August, the company launched Kroger Ship, a service that delivers goods through third-party carriers.The service was initially be available in Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, and Nashville, with plans to increasingly add more markets.
In May, the grocer also acquired online meal-kit company Home Chef.
All of these efforts have contributed to 60% digital sales growth during the company’s third quarter, and its coverage area now reaches more than 90% of customer households, according to Kroger.
To further expand 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.