Delivery robots the future of last-mile?
Customer demands are reshaping last mile delivery and there is an ever increasing emphasis on quick order fulfillment, same-day delivery or even within the hour delivery.
Last mile services has become one of the key differentiators for businesses looking to mould themselves to the demand for quicker and more convenient delivery. This consumer pressure has resulted in a whole raft of innovations, many of them leveraging retail technology to gain market advantage.
This week two grocery giants in the UK unveiled plans for robotic delivery solutions, in an attempt to steal a march on AmazonFresh, who currently boasts one-hour delivery options, but has so far only managed drone delivery proof of concepts in the UK.
Tesco successfully completed its first robot delivery, testing one-hour delivery in London as part of a UK trial. The supermarket giant is working with Starship Technologies who is also responsible for the Just Eat robots you might have seen rolling around Southwark. After a successful delivery in London using a 6 wheel machine the supermarket giant is ready to roll out a wider test across the UK.
Meanwhile, Ocado is preparing for a driverless delivery trial. Following a tie-up with Morrisons the Etail grocer now hopes to reposition itself equally as a technology company and retailer, with plans to expand technology globally. The online supermarket held discussions with technology business Oxbotica about the autonomous vehicles though it is unclear when this will be introduced.
Competing supermarket Sainsbury’s successfully launched its Chop Chop app back in 2016, a service that promises one – hour home delivery via bicycle.
Hermes’ delivery service is soon to launch a testing programme for the use of self-driving delivery robots in London. Also working with Starship Technologies, the six wheel 4mph robots will initially offer 15 minute delivery slots for the collection of parcels.
M&S is another major retailer who is experimenting with delivery options. The retailer has just signed up for ‘hands-free shopping’ with Dropit delivery. While this isn’t a robot delivery service it still employs technology to route goods and shows the increasing demands for convenience and how retailers are scrambling to solve this for customers.
Finally, mega retailer Walmart, whose retail innovation we have reported on regularly has also announced a test associate delivery program where store employees volunteer to make last mile deliveries for online orders. The test started in April, only in select US cities but has since seen promising results, which has sparked the retailer to expand the reach of the program. Currently the service is optional for employees so until it has more structure there won’t be an official launch.
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