Curb Appeal. Ottonomy's Robots are Also Getting in on Grocery Order Pickup

We are sensing a last meter BOPIS trend

Could shuttling groceries out for curbside pickup be the hot new market for delivery robots? I mean, why drive a whole last mile, when you can just travel the last few meters?

Last week we learned grocers were asking Tortoise about using its delivery bots to carry orders out to customers doing curbside pickup. No sooner had we hit publish on that story than Ritukar Vijay, the CEO of Ottonomy (no relation to OttOmate) told us that his company’s robots were already in pilots with grocers and other retailers for the same thing.

Unlike Tortoise’s robots, which are teleoperated by remote humans, Ottonomy’s robots are self-driving. But Ottonomy’s, errr, autonomy doesn’t rely too heavily on GPS to navigate — so its robots can make both outdoor and indoor deliveries. This indoor/outdoor combo means it can easily traverse from the stock room of a store out to a designated parking spot.

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Size-wise, Ottonomy’s robots sit between the smaller Kiwibot rovers and the bigger Tortoise, so Ottonomy’s ‘bots are big enough to carry a substantial grocery order. Additionally, Ottonomy’s cargo bay can be split into two compartments, so it could increase its effieciency by bringing multiple orders out at once.

It’s understandable why robot-powered curbside pickup could appeal to retailers. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of grocery e-commerce last year. And while online grocery sales have fallen from their sky high numbers of last summer, grocery pickup and delivery still generated $5.3 billion in sales in the U.S. this past July, according to recent data from Brick Meets Click, 30 percent of which was for curbside pickup.

Grocers have been expanding their curbside pickup options throughout the pandemic. In addition to expanding designated pickup areas and implementing features like geo-fencing to know when customers arrive, retailers like Albertsons and Walmart Canada are both trying out robotic pickup kiosks. Customers simply pull up to these kiosks, enter a code and the machine automatically brings up their order.

For smaller retailers who lack the space or money to implement large-scale automated pickup solutions, leasing robots from Tortoise or Ottonomy could be a way to optimize their existing human labor. Instead of having human workers trudge back and forth to the partking lot lugging groceries (especially during winter!), have them do higher-skilled tasks like packing orders or providing customer service.

Tell the robot to hit the curb.

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