The Kroger Co. sees autonomous delivery in the future of the online grocery experience.
Kroger said Thursday that it plans to pilot unmanned road vehicles for grocery delivery under a partnership with Nuro, a Mountain View, Calif.-based robotics and artificial intelligence specialist.
Slated to begin this fall, the test will enable customers to place grocery orders through Kroger's ClickList system and Nuro's app and have their items delivered the same day by a fleet of autonomous vehicles. Kroger said it will announce the pilot market soon.
"We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today," said Kroger Chief Digital Officer Yael Cosset in a statement. "As part of Restock Kroger, we have already started to redefine the grocery customer experience and expand the coverage area for our anything, anytime and anywhere offering. Partnering with Nuro, a leading technology company, will create customer value by providing Americans access to fast and convenient delivery at a fair price."
Kroger and Nuro expect the test to “change the status quo of grocery delivery” through the combination of the supermarket retailer’s reach — 2,800 stores in 35 states — and the use of groundbreaking technology. The companies said the pilot will mark the first application and deployment of Nuro's hardware and software.
"Unmanned delivery will be a game-changer for local commerce, and together with Kroger we're thrilled to test this new delivery experience to bring grocery customers new levels of convenience and value," commented Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson. "Our safe, reliable and affordable service, combined with Kroger's ubiquitous brand, is a powerful first step in our mission to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life."
For Kroger, the partnership with Nuro reflects the growth of its digital capabilities and team, which the supermarketer said late yesterday will be moving to a new digital headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.
The new facility, in the Atrium Two building at 221 East Fourth St., initially will house about 600 Kroger digital team members, but that’s expected to grow to more than 1,000 over the next three years.
Next month, plans call for Kroger to start shifting about 500 current digital jobs from Blue Ash and another 100 from its general offices on Vine Street to the new Atrium Two digital headquarters.
"We decided to locate Kroger's digital HQ here because we love Cincinnati. We believe growing our digital team here will support Cincinnati becoming a destination for digital and tech talent," Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen stated.
On the digital retailing front, Kroger in May announced a partnership with U.K. online grocery supermarket Ocado to erect e-commerce fulfillment centers and build out its e-grocery platform. The Cincinnati-based grocer also unveiled a deal to acquire online meal kit service Home Chef and plans to launch Boosted Products in Search, a new service that will enable consumer packaged goods brands to reach digitally savvy shoppers with “hyper-relevant” products in search results across Kroger digital properties.
Last week, Kroger reported that first-quarter digital sales surged 66% and that its seamless coverage area now reaches about 75% of its customers — via its network of ClickList locations, stores offering home delivery through Instacart and other partners, and its ship-to-home capabilities. Also last week, Kroger said its technology unit was named to Computerworld's Top 100 Best Places to Work in IT.
"Kroger is creating a seamless shopping environment so customers can choose how to engage with us, both in-store and online, because the future of retail will include both physical and digital experiences," Cosset noted. "We are investing in innovative digital and technology infrastructure. Our new digital HQ is an important step on our journey to create a truly seamless shopping environment."
Learn more about online grocery shopping/delivery and meal solutions at the inaugural SN Summit, held Oct. 1-3 in Dallas, the only conference where food retailers and restaurateurs learn from each other.