TECHNOLOGY

The newest delivery service: a self-driving ‘bodega-on-wheels’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Grocery chains will soon have a new way to get fresh produce into the hands of its time-starved shoppers.

Startup Robomart introduced a self-driving, nearly fully autonomous grocery store on wheels. The rolling robot is designed to bring fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items from the supermarket aisle to customers’ doors, according to Business Insider.

The concept relies on a Sprinter van-sized delivery vehicle that is refrigerated, and features multiple shelves that will be used to display various types of produce, Business Insider revealed. (It can also be designed with a heating system.)

The rolling robot is outfitted with LiDAR — a detection system that uses radar, and light from a laser, cameras, a motion control system, and route planning and obstacle avoidance software. The vehicle can cover an estimated 80-mile range at 25 miles per hour. They are also equipped with the a wireless charging system, according to Engadget.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers use an app to “order” the vehicle — a concept similar to a ride sharing service. Once it arrives at their home, the shopper unlocks and opens the vehicle’s door, then makes their selection. A proprietary “grab and go” checkout system tracks which products are removed from the vehicle, then automatically bills the shopper’s account and generates an online receipt, Engadget explained.

The concept, which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, is expected to begin cruising neighborhoods in the Bay Area during a pilot program this summer, the report added.

Robomart founder Ali Ahmed, expects the concept to appeal to a collective of local stores that could use the vehicle to compete with big-box retailers. It also could appeal to wholesalers eager to directly connect with consumers, according to TechCrunch.

For now however, the vehicles could give on-demand delivery services, like those from Amazon, Instacart, and Postmates, a run for their money. Supermarket chains could license the platform and robots for a two-year lease — a much cheaper options than opening a new store, Business Insider added. Delivery fees also go into the retailer’s pocket, instead of sharing the revenue with an on-demand delivery partner.

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TECHNOLOGY

Interactive kiosks step up Rent the Runway’s in-store experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A fast-growing online apparel and accessories rental company is making it easier for customers to pick up and drop off their ensembles.

Rent the Runway manages more than 450,000 pieces of designer fashion for what it describes as its “closet in the cloud.” However, this is a massive logistical enterprise — one that relies on mobile technology to collect millions of data points about each user’s interaction with the brand. Through a new partnership with Alia Technologies, Rent the Runway now has a way to tie all of that incoming data into its digital in-store experience to make returns, exchanges and rentals seamlessly easy.

By installing Alia’s self-service interactive kiosks at store-level, customers will be able to quickly pick up and drop off orders, and easily exchange pieces right on the spot. The solution supports 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch iPads to create an interactive device that features digital signage based on images and full resolution videos, as well as scanning technology that can process QR codes and bar codes.

The technology is available in the retailer’s New York City flagship store, as well as locations in Chicago, San Francisco, Topanga, California, and Washington, D.C., according to the company.

“As we expand our ‘endless closet’ into local locations across the country, it is critical that we deliver the same seamless, luxury experience that our customers expect — especially now that we have some customers accessing the store several times a week,” said Hampton Catlin, senior director of engineering, Rent the Runway.

“Traditional scanning devices and systems were difficult and slow for our customers to use, plus they were all rather bulky and unappealing,” added Catlin. “Aila was the only solution that we found that could meet our needs — it lets our customers and associates quickly and efficiently scan the tiny labels on our products to ensure all of their interactions meet our brand standards. Aila’s scanning speed and accuracy is far beyond anything else we have seen.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Specialty retailer makes waves with commitment to unified commerce

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Everything But Water is dipping its toe into the “connected commerce” waters.

The swimwear and resort wear retailer has experienced a significant level of growth over the last decade — both in the number stores it operates, as well as the growth of its digital business. However, both factors began taking a toll on the company’s retail systems — as well as the retailer’s ability to bridge its shopping experience cross-channel.

These issues were further exacerbated by consumers’ increasing demand for a unified experience. Regardless of whether they interact with Everything But Water’s brick-and-mortar stores, online or contact center, “customers expect a positive and consistent brand experience during each visit — but we needed a catalyst that encouraged our customers to make a purchase,” said Everything But Water CEO, Randall Blumenthal. “To make that happen, we needed to the right technology in place.”

When considering a partner to help them along their journey, Blumenthal wanted to work with a company that could help it transition away from its aging legacy solutions, and toward managed services available in the cloud. The ideal technology provider would also deliver modernized, scalable solutions that could support stronger customer engagement, personalized experiences and improved fulfillment.

The retailer joined forces with Manhattan Associates, and began deploying the company’s Manhattan Scale solution, a move that upgraded the company’s warehouse management operations and fully automated its distribution center.

“This gave us the structure we needed to future-proof our operation,” Blumenthal said. “Cloud-based solutions also gives us the alternatives needed to maintain our edge in the marketplace.”

Looking ahead, Everything But Water plans to deploy the technology provider’s Manhattan Active Omni solution to fuse order management and store fulfillment applications, next-generation point-of-sale and clienteling applications onto a single platform. This step will give store associates a 360-degree view of customer information, and access to the company’s full network of inventory.

As a result, the retailer will be able to deliver personalized “buy anywhere, ship anywhere” service to shoppers across any touchpoint, Blumenthal explained.

The cloud-based platform will also enable the company to quickly deploy this additional functionality with little downtime. However, Everything But Water is in no rush.

“While we want to move as quickly as possible, we need to maintain a pace that makes sense for the business and still keeps us competitive,” Blumenthal said, adding that these new capabilities will be ramped up throughout 2018 and 2019.

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