Kroger takes flight with drone delivery test
Kroger thinks that drone deliveries have the potential to help transform its e-commerce operations.
The largest grocery chain operator in the U.S. announced yesterday a pilot program testing the use of autonomous drones to deliver online orders from a Kroger in Centerville, OH.
Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience at Kroger, called the test an “evolution” of the company’s seamless shopping ecosystem including pickup, delivery and shipping.
“The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions,” Ms. Kalmbach said in a statement.
Kroger’s online sales topped $10 billion in 2020 as the company pushed ahead with a multi-year plan to meet consumers where, when and how they find most convenient.
The pilot program, run with Drone Express, a division of Telegrid Technologies, enables Kroger to identify dropoff points based on the location of a customer’s smartphone. This means that the store testing the drones will be able to bring condiments, sunscreen or other items to a park, for example, if a customer forgets to pack them for an afternoon picnic.
Customers placing orders can get their products within as little as 15 minutes. There are weight limits, however, with each order having a five-pound capacity. Kroger is offering special product bundles, such as child wellness (over-the-counter medications, wipes, etc.) and S’mores, which comes with all the fixings for the gooey, sugary summer delight. Customers at the Centerville store may place orders by going to Kroger.com/DroneDelivery.
Test flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer at the Ohio store. Additional monitoring of the drones will be handled at an offsite location. Kroger has scheduled the first Centerville deliveries to begin later this spring. The retailer plans to run a second pilot from a Ralphs store in California at some point during the summer.
“The launch of the pilot in Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers,” said Ethan Grob, Kroger’s director of last mile strategy and product. “We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do so many retailers seem intrigued about the use of drone technology to make deliveries? Do the numbers of pilots being run by major retailers — Amazon, Kroger, 7-Eleven, Walgreens and Walmart — lead you to think that this delivery method will be viable at some point in the future?