Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Albertsons / Safeway Cruising on Remote Control


Back in the day even Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® was a kid, and played with remote control cars.  There is no doubt in Johnson’s mind that the same was true for many at Albertsons / Safeway.  So, they must have liked it then because they are bringing remote control delivery to select neighborhoods.

Sometimes taking one step back helps when you’re trying to take two steps forward? So, what do you think?  Is a remote-control delivery a new and disruptive technology? Johnson, thinks not.

Albertsons partnered with Tortoise, an automated logistics company focused on last-mile solutions, to pilot its remote-controlled zero-emission delivery cart in Northern California, in an effort to bring some industry buzz and new electricity to the brand.  Is there more to it than that?

So, the new Safeway cart, powered by Mountain View, Calif.-based Tortoise, is equipped with a camera and a speaker and is guided through the neighborhood by a remote operator. The cart can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers for a contactless delivery experience.

Currently, the service is open for testing with Safeway associates in select Northern California neighborhoods. During these early stages and as part of the pilot process, the cart will be accompanied by a human. When the cart arrives at a home, the customer receives a text to come outside and pick up their groceries. The carts travel at an average speed of 3 mph and are powered 100% by an electric battery.

Albertsons Chris Rupp, EVP and chief customer and digital officer, stated, “Our team is obsessed with trying new and disruptive technologies that can bring more convenience for our customers,”  “We are willing to quickly test, learn and implement winning innovations that ensure we are offering the easiest and most convenient shopping experience in the entire industry.”  

Industry buzz, yes, new brand electricity, yes, leading technology, maybe not. However, it is a strong step and finding a solution and at times you must take two steps back to take one forward.

Johnson stated “that in my minds-eye the new electricity must be very efficient for the supply chain and includes such things as; corporate partnerships, fresh foods, smell, online ordering, delivery, self-driving cars, plant-based foods, music, streaming, food sampling, toy’s, podcast, movies, cereal, developing brands, grocerant positioning, fresh food messaging, autonomous delivery, cashier-less retail, plates, glasses, cash-less payments, digital hand-held marketing.

All food and beverage retailers to survive the next generation of retail must embrace the artificial intelligence revolution while simultaneously embracing fresh food and beverages that are portable, fresh, with differentiation that is familiar not different and this fits that bill according to Johnson.

Other efforts Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons has made recently to make the shopping experience more convenient includes a pilot of pickup lockers and an automated pickup kiosk at select Jewel-Osco locations in Chicago. The company already offers delivery and Drive Up & Go options through its websites and apps. Albertsons is also expanding its relationships with third-party operators to provide delivery options in as fast as two hours.

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