Will consumers go for Robomart and Unilever’s ‘new spin on the ice cream truck’?

Discussion
Source: Unilever/icecreamshopus.com
May 06, 2022

Los Angelenos won’t have to wait on the ice cream truck rolling into their neighborhoods this summer on irregular schedules. They can simply go on an app and hail the truck to come to them.

Robomart, the store-hailing service, and Unilever, the world’s largest ice cream producer, are teaming up to bring the consumer packaged goods giant’s brands (Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Magnum and Talenti) into city neighborhoods.

Customers using the Robomart app will be able to order from Unilever’s virtual storefront — The Ice Cream Shop — and have their choices delivered via a fleet of mobile mini-marts. Individuals placing orders swipe across the app to open the vehicle’s doors upon its arrival. Customers can choose the items they ordered and walk away without having to physically check out or use a card.

“Putting a spin on the classic ice cream truck by bringing it to consumers on-demand, we have pioneered a new way for everyone to get their favorite ice cream treats in as little as two minutes.” Ali Ahmed, Robomart CEO and co-founder, said in a statement. “This rollout brings to life the original vision my co-founder and I had over a decade ago while working at Unilever to create ‘The Everywhere Store’ — the fastest and most accessible way to get all your essentials.”

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Robomart mobile snack shop – Photo: Robomart

“Our pilot program with Robomart is revolutionizing ice cream delivery for consumers and making it even faster to get our beloved brands to our ice cream fans,” said Russel Lilly, general manager, Unilever North American Ice Cream.  “What better way to shop for your favorite ice cream than just a few steps from your front door?”

Robomart, which launched in June 2021, claims a loyal following among its customers based in Los Angeles. Active users are said to hail the store on wheels to their locations an average of 2.3 times a week. The startup claims that users are growing nine percent on a weekly basis, with orders up 10 percent.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect consumers in Los Angeles to go for The Ice Cream Shop Robomarts? Do you see potential in store hailing services?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I love this idea of hailing the ice cream truck when ever I want it. If the economic model works out, I think this could be really popular."
"I can see this as an occasional treat but I doubt that this will replace a half gallon or pint in your freezer."
"Interesting concept, but the article ignores the key question: Is it profitable?"

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15 Comments on "Will consumers go for Robomart and Unilever’s ‘new spin on the ice cream truck’?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

An interesting addition to the huge number of delivery services coming on stream. I think this has potential, especially as desire for ice cream is often impulsive. And all the better if it sells a wider range of essentials. I do wonder what the bottom like numbers look like, but I cannot see them being worse than the terrible and illogical economics of quick delivery companies which have much more complex picking and fulfillment processes.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Half the fun of the neighborhood ice cream truck is never knowing when it will appear. You hear that music and something lights up inside. You won’t feel that when the equivalent of an Instacart/DoorDash/Schwan’s truck arrives at your house to deliver a carton of ice cream. To a kid that’s just another delivery. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I can see this as an occasional treat but I doubt that this will replace a half gallon or pint in your freezer. Ice cream prices range widely depending on market and retailer – a half gallon of most brands costs less than $5 in many grocery stores so this novelty will co-exist with the regular weekly shopping trip where ice cream is generally included.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

The Ice Cream Shop Robomarts are a clever way to combine the nostalgia of the ice cream truck with today’s mobile ordering and cashier-less checkout. It is a novel way to get novelties. The uniqueness of this novel concept will inspire consumers to try it and let their children experience the ice cream truck that we had as kids, but with a new twist. The one pitfall is that rather than sit in one location and have customers come to you, driving to customers seems less efficient and will burn more gas, which is quite expensive now.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I love this idea of hailing the ice cream truck when ever I want it. If the economic model works out, I think this could be really popular.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I am puzzled. So the calls come in and the truck immediately goes to the home, wherever they are. I hope the margin in ice cream is sufficient enough to support the trucks going every which way, all day, along with maintenance and payroll.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

I agree. My first thought was, so instead of running a route these trucks will be crisscrossing a neighborhood. It would seem this has the potential to add a lot of traffic, and use more fuel.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

And of course, customers will utilize a surface like this if delivery times are very accurate. A container of ice cream on the front steps is not appealing after 30 minutes.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I grew up on Detroit’s eastside where the ice cream truck and the produce truck were entrenched fixtures of daily life. They were models that worked well until lifestyle changes put the produce trucks out of business and curtailed the number of ice cream trucks. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around the economics, logistics, and ESG considerations associated with “on-demand” delivery. I’d have to get a tier or two down on the financials to make a meaningful comment.

DoubleS
Guest

I think it’s unique and enchanting. I’d give it a try. I would imagine the objectives and goals are more around brand awareness than sales. If that is the case, I do think it will be successful.
However the thing I find most curious is that Unilever talks extensively about sustainability in the press release for the initiative, but there is no indication that Robomart has a similar sustainability focus in their operation. That feels like a disconnect.

Lucille DeHart
BrainTrust

The only thing missing from this idea is to have old-fashioned Good Humor trucks making the delivery vs the Mercedes van shown! There are similar local businesses that do something similar. I believe open-source/on-demand retail is the next big thing–so look for more of these concepts rolling out (literally).

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

As much as I’d like this to work (who wouldn’t, right?), I’m having a hard time seeing how it actually will. Like any other kind of business, fixed or mobile, a traveling shop has to have a fairly high volume of sales to be profitable, but how can that be accomplished if random individuals “hail” it? Yes, if 10 or 20 or whatever number of people all in close proximity to each other all want the service at (nearly) the same time, maybe it works … but is that likely?

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

This loses all the fun of the ice cream truck. It was never for me to get Ben and Jerry’s. It was for the kids. And the whole experience includes hearing it coming along with unsupervised shopping as they decide what to get from the menu on the truck.

I’m not impressed and don’t expect that we will hear much more from this. Far more suppliers want to foist delivery into our neighborhoods than there are customers who would seriously value the service.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Interesting concept, but the article ignores the key question: Is it profitable? I highly doubt it, unless we are purchasing $10 ice cream bars. This is a novelty concept that cannot compete in a world of rising gas prices, easily accessible QSRs on every corner, and the at home convenience of ice cream in our large freezers at home.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

Summertime is usually a good time to whip up nostalgia and whimsy. Combine that with smart technology and modern convenience and Unilever and Robomart might be on to something.

This experiment could be fun but not likely a strong proof point for the overall viability of this concept other than leveraging seasonality for mobile marts may increase relevance.

Still, will enough consumers adopt this shopping format to drive scale? Or, will this experiment just bring a little whimsy and modern convenience to a favorite summer pastime? Consumers will decide.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I love this idea of hailing the ice cream truck when ever I want it. If the economic model works out, I think this could be really popular."
"I can see this as an occasional treat but I doubt that this will replace a half gallon or pint in your freezer."
"Interesting concept, but the article ignores the key question: Is it profitable?"

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