Your next c-store online order may be delivered by a robot
A number of grocery stores and tech vendors have piloted delivery robots over the last few years, some autonomous, some remote controlled. Now one company is looking at the convenience store space as the sweet spot.
Robotics startup Tortoise is expanding its footprint and will be furnishing 500 convenience stores nationwide with remote control delivery robots to facilitate same-day, last-mile delivery, according to TechCrunch. The company’s delivery robots have already been leveraged, through partnerships, with grocery store chain ShopRite and tech-savvy hybrid grocer/convenience store Choice Market in Denver, CO.
Hi! Tortoise is as at the @NACSonline conference in Chicago this week. We just announced the largest delivery robot purchase ever – 500 Tortoise robots going to KRS convenience retailers!!!! Drop us a DM to meet up. pic.twitter.com/yV80wapkD0
— Tortoise (@TortoiseHQ) October 6, 2021
The shift toward home delivery represents a pivot for the startup. Tortoise began as a robotic alternative to the motorized delivery scooters which grew popular in major U.S. cities in the summers leading up to the pandemic. The tech firm launched a pilot of its remote-controlled delivery robots in conjunction with Albertsons earlier this year.
Customer demand for delivery has grown across retail sectors in recent years with online grocery ordering experiencing an unprecedented spike at the beginning of the pandemic. Studies show that the convenience store space has been as impacted by increased demand, as well.
A study from late 2020 by NACS Research found that 57 percent of stores in the convenience space offer some sort of last-mile fulfillment (including delivery and/or various pickup options), and that the stores that offer such services experience great benefits from doing so.
At least one of the major delivery players has begun looking at convenience stores as a space it can own. DoorDash recently launched a virtual convenience store called DashMart, which features 2,000 grocery items and restaurant-branded items and promises delivery in 30 minutes or less.
Delivery robots have continued to raise concerns, however, in some municipalities as to their impact on jobs and also their potential to be public safety hazards. At the same time, however, more effective use cases have been emerging for the robots. A growing number of college campuses are leveraging robots for food delivery to dorms, as an example. Last month, Grubhub announced that it would be delivering food on the Ohio State University campus by robot, according to Thrillist.
- Tortoise expands remote operated robotic delivery to convenience stores across the U.S. – TechCrunch
- How crucial is last-mile fulfillment to 7-Eleven and the c-store channel? – RetailWire
- Choice Market’s Wickedly Smart Expansion – Winsight Grocery Business
- Are remote controlled robots ready to delivery for grocers and drugstores? – RetailWire
- The future of food delivery is two-feet tall – SMDP
- DoorDash delivers a virtual convenience store – RetailWire
- Grubhub Is Using Robots to Make On-Campus Food Deliveries – Thrillist
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How useful do you see robots, either remote controlled or autonomous, being for convenience stores now or in the near future? Are there aspects of convenience retailing that make it a better use case than grocery stores or other types of retail outlets?