Your next c-store online order can be delivered by a robot – RetailWire


08 Oct 2021

A number of grocery stores and tech vendors have piloted delivery robots in recent years, some stand-alone, others remote-controlled. Now a business sees the convenience store space as the place to be.

Robotics startup Tortoise is expanding its footprint and will supply 500 convenience stores nationwide with remote-controlled delivery robots to facilitate same-day, last-mile delivery, according to TechCrunch. The company’s delivery robots have already been exploited, through partnerships, with the ShopRite grocery chain and the tech-savvy Choice Market hybrid grocer / convenience store in Denver, CO.

The shift towards home delivery represents a pivot for the startup. Tortoise began as a robotic alternative to the motorized delivery scooters that became popular in major US cities in the summers leading up to the pandemic. The tech company launched a pilot project of its remote-controlled delivery robots in collaboration with Albertsons earlier this year.

Customer delivery demand has increased across all retail sectors in recent years, with online grocery orders peaking at the start of the pandemic. Studies show that the convenience store space has also been affected by increased demand.

A late 2020 study by NACS Research found that 57% of convenience space stores offer some sort of last mile processing (including delivery and / or various pickup options), and stores that do offer such services enjoy great advantages in doing so.

At least one of the major players in delivery has started to see convenience stores as a space they can own. DoorDash recently spear a virtual convenience store called DashMart, which offers 2,000 groceries and restaurant branded items and promises delivery in 30 minutes or less.

Delivery robots, however, continued to raise concerns in some municipalities about their impact on jobs and also their potential to endanger public safety. At the same time, however, more effective use cases have emerged for robots. A growing number of college campuses are using robots to deliver food to dorms, for example. Last month, Grubhub announced it would deliver food to the Ohio State University campus by robot, according to Thrillist.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How well do you see robots, whether remote controlled or autonomous, for convenience stores now or in the near future? Are there any aspects of convenience retail that make it a better use case than grocery stores or other types of retail outlets?


“Last mile delivery robots are helping convenience stores align with consumer demand for speed and ease to drive growth online.”


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