ShopRite stores in the northeast Pennsylvania towns of Yardley and Bethlehem are adding remote-controlled mobile robots designed to meet growing consumer demand for faster local home delivery.
The battery-powered delivery robots, which will travel along sidewalks and roadsides at a walking pace—no more than 3 miles per hour, officials said—are to be tele-operated by remote drivers. The rollout represents the northeast debut of Tortoise, a mobility company founded by a former Uber engineer that originally developed its technologies to collect ride-share scooters.
Tortoise units have been previously tested by food retailers including Albertsons Cos. Last week, Tortoise said it would begin carting items between a store and a commissary on behalf of the Colorado c-store chain Choice Markets to provide a low-cost solution for point-to-point deliveries in close proximity.
Tortoise rolls out at the ShopRite of Yardley this week and the ShopRite of Bethlehem next month, according to Wakefern Food Corp., the Keasbey, N.J.-based cooperative of independent ShopRite owners. The Yardley (1603 Big Oak Rd.) and Bethlehem (4701 Freemansburg Ave.) stores are owned by ShopRite of Hunterdon County, whose president, Joe Colalillo, is also chairman and CEO of Wakefern.
“We are excited to launch this revolutionary new technology. Demand for ever faster home delivery continues to increase, and we believe this provides another innovative way for ShopRite customers to receive their groceries quickly and efficiently,” Colalillo said in a statement. “Tortoise’s battery-powered cart is a unique, environmentally friendly and cost-effective delivery option for our customers who shop online.”
ShopRite said the delivery cart, outfitted with cameras and location technologies allowing remote drivers to operate them in the style of a video game, can hold up to 150 pounds in four lockable containers that support ambient, chilled and frozen groceries. ShopRite customers are alerted to the arrival of the order via a text message that can also be used to unlock the cart to unload groceries.
“Wakefern is our first customer on the East Coast to use this innovative delivery system, and we believe shoppers will love the convenience Tortoise offers,” Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder of Mountain View, Calif.-based Tortoise, said. “Our electric cart allows ShopRite associates to focus less on the delivery of products and more on helping customers to improve the shopping experience.”
Speaking this week at the Groceryshop conference in Las Vegas, Albertsons Chief Digital and Customer Officer Chris Rupp remarked that Tortoise has been one of the company’s most-talked-about solutions among customers and shoppers in the select Northern California stores to have tested it “because it’s so fun.” Rupp emphasized the technology's role among a variety of solutions the big company is examining as it looks to bring last-mile costs down over time and find innovations that customers will accept and understand. “This is important learning,” she said.
Delivery Solutions, another company that specializes in helping retailers maximize online delivery services and provide same-day delivery, worked with Wakefern and Tortoise to support the new delivery robots with real-time order tracking and scheduling.
"We are excited to deliver on our promise to futureproof fulfillment for ShopRite. Tortoise is the latest in a series of fulfillment options ShopRite will orchestrate against to provide superior customer experiences,” said Manil Uppal, founder of Delivery Solutions.
The Tortoise delivery system is another contactless option for ShopRite customers looking for added layers of protection due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, ShopRite offers online grocery delivery through a variety of last mile providers.
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