Kroger will launch its self-driving delivery pilot in Scottsdale, Ariz. The company is partnering with Nuro, a driverless delivery vehicle company, to begin testing the concept at a Fry’s Food Stores location. Nuro will initially use a self-driving Toyota Prius before introducing its custom R1 driverless vehicles in the fall.
Customers can place orders either through Fry’s web site or mobile app, and schedule them to be delivered to their homes either the same day or the next day based on available slots. There is a $5.95 delivery fee with no minimum order requirement.
The automated delivery program could reduce the direct labor costs associated with grocery delivery, according to Sylvain Perrier, President and CEO of Mercatus. The trial could provide shoppers with a more efficient service while saving money and improving the bottom line for Kroger.
“This is a significant wake-up call for delivery services who rely on the gig economy for fulfilling deliveries and for retailers who are hesitant to enter the online fulfillment space,” said Perrier in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “We are no longer asking the question ‘will retailers enact online grocery options?’ Retailers have gone well past the initial adoption phase and are already creating the future’s more efficient and productive online grocery fulfillment options.”
The launch of the automated delivery pilot closely follows the introduction of Kroger Ship, the retailer’s new direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-Commerce platform. The service is initially offering a curated selection of 4,500 Our Brands private label items, as well as 50,000 center-aisle grocery and household products.
Kroger acquired meal-kit company Home Chef in May, which also provided a boost to its delivery options: Home Chef's distribution centers reach 98% of all continental U.S. households within a two-day delivery window.