Just over a month ago Kroger invested $250 million in an agreement with British player Ocado for automated warehouse management and online order processing. A few days later, it closed the acquisition of Home Chef to sell its meal kits in physical stores and through e-commerce. In just another week it announced the intention to double the number of digital staff in just over a year and a half. As for innovation and policies for developing the online channel, the American retail chain does not seem to want to be overtaken by competitors. It is no coincidence that in the first quarter of this year Kroger’s turnover in e-commerce grew by 66%, thanks also to the two-hour delivery service from over 1,200 stores to which 1,165 collection points were added. However, according to Managing Director Rodney McMullen the real challenge for Kroger is to find solutions to reduce delivery costs and provide customers with greater efficiency. On the other hand, according to a Forrester Analytics survey almost a third of consumers say they do not shop online because of the high cost of deliveries.
The partnership between Kroger and Nuro startup
With this in mind the retailer has just signed a partnership with Nuro, a startup specializing in hardware and software for automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and computer vision, which in the last two rounds raised $92 million in funding. The aim is to test on a large scale a minivan without a driver dedicated to the home delivery of food products.
An automatic suitcase-robot
It is an electrically powered vehicle, weighing about 600 kg, with symmetrical shapes reminiscent of those of a suitcase. The space inside the vehicle is divided into two compartments and can accommodate up to 10 large bags for a maximum of 100 kg. Driverless vehicles – said Dave Ferguson, co-founder of Nuro and former employee of Google – will change the rules of the game for local commerce. Along with Kroger, we are really excited to test this new delivery experience. It shall bring new levels of convenience and value to supermarket customers.
The new frontier of driverless driving
As with the experiments carried out by Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut, as well as the prototype launched by startup Robomart, Nuro is able to decipher road signs and traffic lights, recognizing the presence of cars and pedestrians. When it reaches the customer’s home it can then collect orders, after the customer has entered an unlock code received via app.